Many families who are contemplating building their family through adoption or already in the adoption process may wonder what happens if they get pregnant during the process. This question often arises with the adoption service providers as the prospective adoptive parents may have had a long road of infertility before making the decision to pursue adoption. Many couples who have experienced infertility begin the process of adoption staying open to the possibility of also having a biological child one day. By leaving that option open, they are rightfully inquisitive and at times concerned regarding whether becoming pregnant during the adoption process could jeopardize their adoption placement.

So what happens when a couple becomes pregnant during the adoption process?

There are variables that come into play in answering that question. Truthfully, the answer truly is—it depends. Some of the different factors that affect whether you can still finalize your adoption when you become pregnant are as follows:

Are You Adopting Internationally?

If you are pursuing an international adoption, many countries have requirements related to the number of children that can be living at home. Certain countries also have regulations requiring children spacing a certain amount of months apart. Further, most adoption agencies also have their own rules requiring parents to wait at least one year after the birth of their last child before pursuing adoption. Many home study providers also believe in this, so that adoptive parents can have the time necessary to attach to a new child coming into their family through adoption. Many children who are adopted internationally have various needs emotionally, mentally, and physically which call for close attention and care as the family attaches. Many social workers and adoption service providers believe in keeping the current birth order of the family so that any children joining the family through adoption are the youngest and not joining the family as the oldest or middle child. It is not always a requirement, but it is something that many social workers conducting a home study will consider.

Are You Adopting Domestically?

If you are pursuing a domestic adoption, either privately or through an agency, some factors could be an obstacle to completing it if you become pregnant. If you are matched with a birth mother by your agency or adoption attorney, she may wish to place her child with parents who will not have a biological newborn of similar age. Your agency may also have requirements to wait a certain amount of time before adopting after the birth of your child. Many agencies, whether you adopt internationally or domestically, believe it is important to adjust as a family after the new addition of a child. There are factors that you may not be considering that could impede on the bonding and attachment process with both your biological baby and adopted baby. There may be medical factors such as postpartum depression or complications at birth that may make recovery for both mom and baby more difficult. It may not be best for anyone to have a newly adopted baby also joining the family.

Some agencies may close your profile as a prospective adoptive parent if you find out you have become pregnant and have a profile to be matched with a birth mother seeking to place their child for adoption. Other agencies will temporarily put your profile on hold until your biological child is a year old. You will need to discuss this with your agency.

Are You Adopting from Foster Care?

There are some caveats regarding adopting from foster care if you become pregnant. First, most states allow prospective foster parents to continue to pursue their license to foster parent if they become pregnant. There will need to be an addendum to your home study, but most states allow you to continue to process. If you are already fostering a child or children which you plan to adopt, you will need to have open communications with their social work regarding the timing of the birth of the child and the timing of the adoption.    

As with any adoption, it is important to understand the requirements of the country from which you are adopting and your agency’s requirements regarding pregnancy. If you believe there is a possibility you may become pregnant while pursuing an adoption, have these discussions with your prospective adoption service providers as you are interviewing and researching agencies, home study providers and adoption attorneys.

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the children welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director, Member Manager, and Chief Development Officer at Joint Council on International Children’s Services. She also worked for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro region. She currently serves on the Development Board for the National Council for Adoption. She is the Co-Founder and President of Trustify, which she founded with her husband, Danny Boice. They reside in Alexandria, Virginia with their 5 children.