I’m Pregnant. What Should I Do Next?
Congratulations – you’re pregnant!
If you’ve just found out, you’re probably at least four weeks along already. You might be going through a range of emotions: joy, fear, relief or disbelief. These are all normal reactions and you should allow yourself some time to adjust.
Now, the question is what do you need to do next?
See your GP for your first antenatal appointment
Even if you’re not 100 per cent sure you’re pregnant, it pays to make an appointment to visit your doctor. While GPs typically like to see you before you are pregnant, this isn’t always possible. For one thing, it is estimated that around 40 per cent of all pregnancies are unplanned. So while you may have missed out on a few things, such as taking pre-pregnancy supplements or getting up to date on some vaccines, now is as good a time as any to get your and your baby’s health in order.
At your first appointment, you might expect:
- Confirmation of your pregnancy and approximate due date
- A discussion about your medical history. This can include menstrual cycle, gynaecological history, past pregnancies and any pre-existing or genetic conditions.
- A health assessment of your medications, diet and lifestyle
- General pregnancy health information
- Any blood tests, ultrasounds, urine tests or vaccinations your doctor may think necessary.
If you’re already experiencing morning sickness [link the words ‘morning sickness’ to the Midwives “6 Ways to Treat Morning Sickness” blog] or other unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, discuss these with your doctor. If you fell pregnant while on contraception, rest assured that your baby is unlikely to be affected.
Calculate your due date
Your GP and obstetrician will go over this with you, but no doubt you’ll be curious and excited and want to calculate your baby’s birthdate as soon as you suspect you’re pregnant.
Start with the first day of your last period. Then count 40 weeks, or 280 days, forward from there. This method assumes that you have a 28-day cycle and you ovulated and conceived on the second week. Every woman is different, so your due date is only a guide.
Give up alcohol and cigarettes
It’s very important for both your and your baby’s health that you stop drinking alcohol and give up cigarettes immediately.
If you’re one of the many women who have had a drink or two without realising they’re pregnant, read our article here and have a chat with your obstetrician if you have any concerns.
For women who are smokers, it’s never too late to quit. Giving up cigarettes before or during pregnancy is the best way to protect your baby (and yourself) from serious pregnancy complications. You’re less likely to suffer a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, plus your baby is:
- Less likely to be born prematurely
- Less likely to die shortly after birth from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- More likely to be a healthy weight, more settled and feed better
- Less likely to develop serious conditions in their lifetime including type II diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The risk of developing these conditions is heightened, even if they don’t smoke themselves.
If you give up smoking now, you are reducing your baby’s health risks that arise from second-hand smoke. These include SIDS, asthma, poor lung development and behavioural problems. If you’re having trouble quitting, read the Healthy WA guide for some ideas and talk to a professional.
Choose your obstetrician and a hospital
Women with private health insurance that includes maternity, and women who self-fund their care, have the option of selecting a maternity hospital and their obstetrician. Which one you choose first is up to you.
Every hospital feels different and what you want is personal, so take a tour to see their maternity services for yourself. When it comes to obstetricians, you don’t have to choose the first obstetrician you visit, or the one your friend or relative recommends. Research different obstetricians online and call their consulting rooms to find out more information. Ideally, you’ll want to be booked in by your tenth week to guarantee your first choice of specialist.
If you’ve had miscarriages or a complicated or ectopic pregnancy previously, you can see an obstetrician earlier than this. Visit your GP first, though, so you can get the Medicare rebate.
Start taking pregnancy supplements
If you planned your pregnancy, you might already be taking folic acid and iodine. If you haven’t started yet, that’s okay. Begin taking both supplements as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
While you do get the B-group vitamin folate in your diet, it isn’t enough during pregnancy (folate is what’s naturally found in foods and folic acid is the synthetic version added to foods and supplements). Mothers-to-be should take 400 micrograms of folic acid for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, as this has been shown to reduce the chance of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Iodine is also essential in pregnancy and helps with your baby’s brain and nervous system development. Take at least 150 micrograms throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding. However, if you have a pre-existing thyroid condition, make sure you speak with your healthcare professionals beforehand.
Your GP can advise you during your first antenatal appointment whether you need Vitamin D, iron or any other supplements. This is also something you can talk through with your obstetrician.
Watch what you eat
There are some foods that you’ll need to take care with or even avoid now that you’re pregnant. These concerns are mainly around salmonella, listeria and toxoplasmosis. Foods you should forgo include raw or undercooked eggs, raw seafood and meat, soft serve ice cream, soft cheeses, pâté and processed deli meats. For more information, read up about food safety and hygiene during pregnancy.
Caffeine is safe in pregnancy but only in small amounts. However, you might find the choice is taken out of your hands because many women discover they can’t tolerate coffee anymore, or the smell makes them nauseated. In fact, some women realise they’re pregnant purely because they’ve gone off coffee. If you’re still having coffee and other caffeinated products (tea, energy drinks, chocolate), keep in mind that the maximum recommended intake is 200mg per day. This is around one to two coffees or two to three cups of tea.
Give yourself time to adjust
As we said in the beginning, this can be a time full of emotions and physical changes. You might be very fatigued and have an upset stomach, headaches, mood swings or tender breasts. These are all normal — even at this early stage of your pregnancy.
If this pregnancy is a surprise, getting your head around it all can take some time. Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel elated — it’s a very different experience for each woman. Make sure you find an obstetrician you feel comfortable discussing these issues with, and ask for help if you need it.
Dr Mark Sillender is a Consultant Obstetrician at Glengarry Private Hospital. He has delivered thousands of babies both in Perth and in the UK (where he hails from). To book with Dr Sillender, call his private rooms, Pearl Obstetrics and Gynaecology
, on (08) 9448 9822. Find out more about delivering your baby at Glengarry here