Is there really such a thing as a ‘surprise’ pregnancy?

If we ignore what our bodies are telling us, we’ll be shocked by what they do, says Daisy Buchanan

By Jess Edwards 20/09/2012 13:10

A pregnant lady (Getty Images)At school, it was the stuff of nightmares. It never happened to anyone you knew directly – but someone always had a cousin whose friend met someone on holiday who had been fooling around with her boyfriend, hadn’t had sex and magically got pregnant, and had no idea about it until they suddenly and dramatically gave birth to a baby on the toilet.


Looking back, it’s easy to dismiss our childish Chinese whispers as the fantasy of a group of ludicrously paranoid teenage girls. At a strict, single sex school, we grew up fearing pregnancy and its life-altering consequences, and we were taught to constantly monitor our bodies. If your period was an hour late, you worried. Some of the more forward -thinking girls bought pregnancy tests in bulk and hid them in their lockers.


"You have a responsibility to know yourself and your body well enough to choose for a baby to be born"


We had been taught to take every care and precaution when we became sexually active, because we were all encouraged to do well in exams and go to university. A baby would change all that. Even though most of us graduated a long time ago, our teenage fear still lingers – not least because the effects of the recession are forcing most young women in their twenties and thirties to put off starting a family.


But then, on Tuesday in Camp Bastion, a gunner in the Royal Artillery realised our teenage nightmares. She complained of stomach pains before giving birth to a baby who was five weeks premature – and said that she had no idea she was pregnant. It’s the first time a UK soldier has given birth whilst in Afghanistan.


"You need to be aware that it doesn’t matter which contraceptives you’re using, sex could result in pregnancy"

The arrival of a new baby should be a great source of joy and happiness, but if you’re bringing a life into the world, surely you have a responsibility to know yourself and your body well enough to choose for it to be born, and to prepare for its arrival? At the moment, little is known about the months that led up to the birth, but it’s hard to believe that the soldier didn’t experience any changes or warning signals.


"We need to listen to our bodies and look after them"

Babies aren’t brought by a stork. They’re not a magical surprise that arrives at Christmas. Whether it’s a change in your menstrual cycle, your breasts, your hormones or just your temperature, if you’re sexually active and think there’s a possibility of pregnancy, you need to find out what’s going on. There’s no such thing as safe sex – only safer sex. And that means that as well as being sensible about protecting yourself from STIs, you need to be aware that it doesn’t matter which contraceptives you’re using, sex could result in pregnancy.


The Camp Bastion story won’t calm any teenage girl who is scared that she might suddenly become pregnant if she comes within a metre of any sperm. But it will reinforce the myth that women can’t control their destiny or sexuality, and families are just something that happens, not something that you plan. We’ve got a responsibility to show young women that they can choose what to do with their bodies – and in order to do that, we need to listen to our bodies and look after them.


Follow Daisy Buchanan on Twitter @notrollergirl

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