“I Got Pregnant During the Cost of Living Crisis…Having a Baby Was Not an Option for Me”

Getty / Raimund Koch Roberto Machado Noa peepo

As the cost of living crisis continues, bringing with it rising food, heating, electricity, and petrol prices, there is a lesser known impact the crisis is having. Statistics from the UK government show the number of abortions in England and Wales increased by 17 percent between January and June 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, and experts believe this is a direct result of the cost of living crisis. The annual abortion statistics for 2023 have been delayed until January 2024 due to a backlog with form processing, but the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) are seeing numbers continue to rise.

Sarah*, a graduate, felt that she was left with no choice but to terminate her pregnancy in April 2022, largely due to her financial situation. Read about her story, in her own words, below.

The day I found out I was pregnant, it was St. Patrick’s Day. I started to feel like I was getting ill and I needed to pee all the time. My period was late, so I bought a test. It was positive.

I was living with two friends in a student house in Liverpool, where I was a second-year student and, now, four weeks pregnant. We were supposed to be going out the night I found out – the city goes all out as there’s a huge Irish population – but after getting a positive pregnancy test, I decided to stay in. My friends were supportive, but all they could really do was listen.

While everyone was out and having fun, I was alone thinking everything over. I just felt lost. That’s the only way you can really describe being in this situation – completely lost.

I called my mum and I remember I was trying so hard not to cry. She told my dad and drove four hours up to Liverpool to talk things through with me. She took me home once she realised I needed time with my family; they were both so supportive. They were obviously just as shocked, but they did a good job of being there for me.

My partner was long distance, so this all had to be spoken about over the phone, which was quite difficult. We had been together for a year and a half when this all happened, and friends for much longer before that, but he didn’t want me to have the baby at all. I had been taking the combined oral contraceptive pill since I was 14, and at the age of 20, I felt like I should come off it for a little while. We’d started using condoms, which must have failed without either of us realising. It led us to breaking up in the end, because he just wasn’t giving me a choice.

Even though I had all of the symptoms really early on, it was all so unexpected. Some mornings, I would wake up and I’d be really happy to be pregnant and I’d think, “yeah, I can do this!” Then as the day would progress, I would think about it some more, and by night I had a completely different outlook.

It’s no secret that the cost of everything has been going up; I was barely even able to keep myself afloat. I had £250 a month from my student loan for food and bills. Since I was a student and completely inexperienced with managing money, I would usually spend it all within the first two weeks, and live off little money for the rest of the month. Even shopping in Aldi and Lidl, the price of food had risen so much that I had to budget my weekly food shop.

The decision never became clearer to me, but ultimately I felt that I’d rather make a mistake and end up without a child than make a mistake and end up with a child, because a child is forever. I would have loved the child regardless, but an abortion just made sense to me. There were so many factors where I wouldn’t have been able to give the life to the child that I really wanted to, and that’s what made me sure. Financially, how could I provide for us both?

I figured out the cost of the baby and pregnancy with all the things I would need, and it was completely impossible. Having a baby was almost not an option for me and I think that was what I found so difficult, because all I’ve ever wanted to be in my life is a mum.

It wouldn’t have been fair either, because we don’t know when this cost of living crisis is going to end. You could say that about any time in your life, but I think when it comes down to actually being able to provide for a child, it kind of feels like the choice gets taken away from you.

“I wouldn’t have been able to give the life to the child that I really wanted to, and that’s what made me sure. Financially, how could I provide for us both?”

Once I’d made up my mind, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) was great and really did their best to help, but women’s services are so underfunded in this country. My local women’s hospital was also closed at this time. I cannot stress enough how difficult it was to make an appointment for an assessment with a nurse or doctor (which is required before undergoing an abortion in the UK). I had to be on hold for at least an hour before getting through to anyone, and trying to get a scan (which is also required prior to a termination) was almost impossible because of a lack of available appointments. My doctors were also worried about the pain I was experiencing, so they needed to find out if the pregnancy was ectopic before allowing me to terminate the pregnancy.

They offered me a scan for one month after my initial phone consultation, but it wasn’t anywhere near my home town, which was so difficult. I ended up having to fork out £100 – which my mum kindly helped with – to have a scan privately because they wouldn’t prescribe the medication (mifepristone and misoprostol) until I had the scan. It made an already stressful and heartbreaking situation even more stressful. It’s not their fault, it’s just that the system is so broken.

The abortion itself, which I had at 7 weeks, was difficult both emotionally and physically. It took me a really long time to accept. Going through a breakup and an abortion was so hard, and it also meant that I drank quite a lot during the summer – when the price of my student accommodation was halved – because I just didn’t know how to deal with things.

I felt guilty for a long time, but in hindsight I can look back and recognise that was the best thing for me. If I want the most out of my life or my child’s life, having a baby wasn’t the right course, and I did the right thing at the time.

I’ll never forget it; it’s not something that you ever really get over, but it’s something that you can move on from. I’ve since been able to graduate from university, and I’m planning on relocating to the US next year – which wouldn’t have been possible with a baby. I’m not in a new relationship yet, but I am starting to date.

There is a chance that you can have an amazing life and amazing experiences afterwards, and you should never feel guilty for putting yourself first. I still want to have a child one day when the time is right in terms of mental and financial stability, but that’s something that I see for myself in the future. For now, I’m happily single, and focusing on my career.

A spokesperson for BPAS told POPSUGAR: “In the past 18 months we have seen an unprecedented rise in numbers of those seeking abortion services through BPAS, and we have been working hard to make sure that all women can access care as close to home as possible in a timely, compassionate manner.

“Since the beginning of 2022 we have scaled up our capacity across the service in order to reduce our waiting times as we realise how important accessing care quickly is for women requesting treatment.”

To book an appointment, or for confidential advice on your pregnancy options, call MSI Reproductive Choices on 0345 300 8090 for England, Scotland and Wales, 0333 234 2184 for Northern Ireland, or 1 800 849 091 for Republic of Ireland from 7AM – 6PM every day.

*Name has been changed.

– As told to Gabriella Ferlita

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