Kierstin is a mom to two little girls and host of the satirical podcast Really Good Advice for New Moms.
Finding Out You're Pregnant During a Pandemic
Finding out you're pregnant should be exciting, but if you just found out you're pregnant during a pandemic, there's probably more on your mind than baby names and prenatal vitamins. You might be wondering:
Am I more susceptible to Coronavirus because I'm pregnant?
According to the CDC, at the moment, doctors and scientists don't know if pregnancy gives you an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 or if your symptoms will be more severe if you do. However, it is known that pregnancy lowers your immune system.
Don't panic, but now more than ever is a great time for you to hunker down and practice social distancing.
If I get Coronavirus will it hurt my baby or cause a miscarriage?
A small study suggests that Coronavirus is not passed from mother to fetus and there is no evidence that it causes miscarriage. However, since Covid-19 is a new virus, doctors and scientists are still learning and gathering information about it.
Should I go to my doctor right away?
No, but you should call them and let them know you just received a positive pregnancy test. From there, they'll decide if the best way to care for you is in person or through telehealth options like phone calls or video chats to ensure safe social-distancing.
What Should You Do When You Find out You're Pregnant?
Each time I found out I was pregnant one thought would move through my mind over and over and over, This is amazing but now what? I didn't know what to do besides flush the toilet and stare at those two bright pink lines. Was I supposed to call someone? Tell someone, and if so, who? My husband? Yes, I told him. But then what? Pick out baby clothes? Wait. No. Paint the nursery? We didn't have a nursery!
The world began to spin, and I can now say with clarity that it was actually the morning sickness setting in. However, it was also a very real fear, and I believe it's one many expecting mothers experience in those first days after confirming they're pregnant. Here's a bunch of ideas that'll help you get your to-do list in order as you ride out the long, bumpy (hehe) nine-month journey that is growing a human.
Rethink Your Morning Routine
Did your boss just offer you an afternoon shift? Do you have lessons or classes that can be moved from 8 AM to after lunch? Morning is a sluggish and sleepy time during early pregnancy and becomes more challenging with each passing trimester. If you're able, take time in the morning to wake up, eat a healthy breakfast, and go for a quick walk to ease any nausea before facing the rest of your day.
Make sure to get enough sleep during these months, as sleep deprivation has been associated with longer labor times, increased pain perception and discomfort during labor, and higher cesarean rates.
Drink (More) Water
If you don't already carry water around with you everywhere you go, now's the time to start. Grab a few reusable water bottles so you can refill them throughout the day without paying the price for bottled water. Pregnancy makes moms-to-be extra thirsty, queasy, and dizzy. The need to stay hydrated is more important during pregnancy, as this helps support fetal circulation and, if the water has fluoride, teeth and bone development.
A hit of ice-cold water, while standing in line at the grocery store or waiting at a red light, can be a total lifesaver. Plus, if you decide to breastfeed, it's pretty handy to keep bottles of water around to gulp as you nurse and pump.
Pick Out a Prenatal Vitamin
Two key nutrients for mother and baby during pregnancy are folic acid, which aids in the proper formation of baby's neural tube (where the spinal cord and brain develop), and iron, which is necessary to avoid anemia. However, fickle cravings and food aversions can make it difficult to reach the daily recommended dose of these nutrients through food alone. If you're not craving broccoli and fish every day, taking a prenatal vitamin can help you cover those nutritional gaps in your diet.
What to Look for in a Prenatal Vitamin
- Folic Acid: This helps prevent neural tube birth defects (brain and spinal cord). The body absorbs folate from supplements more efficiently than from foods that you eat, so consider the healthy foods that are high in folate a supplement to, well, your supplement.
- Iodine: This is critical for the optimal development of your baby's brain and nervous system. Iodine regulates the baby's metabolism and plays an important role in regulating the mother's thyroid gland.
- Calcium: A growing baby needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth. It helps the development of a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles. It's good for moms as well, as calcium can also reduce the risk of hypertension and high blood pressure.
Do You Need Iron in a Prenatal?
You'll need all the iron you can get to make extra blood (hemoglobin) for you and your baby during pregnancy. It also helps move oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and to your baby. A study analyzing the relationship between pregnant women and iron found that the women with iron deficiencies were found to more frequently experience difficulty sleeping and breathing, exhaustion, and fainting. Here's the problem though - for a lot of women, myself included, iron in supplements can make you feel really nauseous and contribute to vomiting in early pregnancy. Puking up your prenatal is almost like not taking one at all.
So, start out with a gummy vitamin like this one and talk to your doctor about what iron rich foods you can incorporate into your diet (like spinach in your morning smoothie and a bean burrito for lunch). Once you're past the morning sickness stage, you can ditch the gummy and move on to a prenatal that includes iron.
A Note About Iron Toxicity
Like any good thing, too much of it can turn bad and iron is no exception. Although iron toxicity is rare in adults, it's a potential fatal side effect of taking too much iron. Before picking out a prenatal, talk to your doctor about how much iron you should be getting each day and how much is too much, along with any other supplements or vitamins you're taking so they can make sure you're not accidentally consuming too much iron. And as always, keep all of your vitamins, supplements and medications out of reach of children.
Exercise a Little
There are so many reasons to exercise: good mood, higher-quality sleep, your baby's health, your health, and an easier post-partum recovery. Whether you do ten minutes of YouTube-led prenatal yoga in the morning or pace the sidewalk in front of your apartment before sundown, a little bit of prenatal exercise is a great way to clear your mind when you're feeling overwhelmed with everything on the horizon.
What are other exercises to try?
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Walking briskly for 10 minutes a day
Get Insight into Your Maternal Medical History
If you have the privilege, talk to your mom, maternal grandma or maternal aunts about their pregnancy experiences. This isn't just a bonding experience, it's also important to research your family history of certain pregnancy-related health conditions you may not know about like hyperemesis gravidarum or preeclampsia. Be prepared and take notes in case you need to notify your doctor of possible diseases for which you may be at a higher risk.
Clean out Your Medicine Cabinet
Make sure that any medications you were taking before pregnancy—including OTC pain relievers, supplements, allergy medications, and digestive aids—are safe to take during pregnancy. Throw away or replace anything that's not. including:
- Castor oil
Find a Doctor and Figure out Your Health Insurance
Okay, so technically, this is the only thing on this list you really need to do right away, and it's also probably the least fun. The reason it's important to find a doctor immediately is that you'll have a designated office to call if you have the following:
- Any medical issues or concerns
- A pre-existing condition that makes your pregnancy high-risk
You can ask them for information even if your first appointment isn't until your second trimester, and it can save you a lot of anxiety.
How to Find a Doctor
- Search for pregnancy care providers in your area, including midwives and ob-gyns.
- Start with the ones who are most convenient. You can determine this by factoring in their hours, location, hospital proximity, and size (you probably don't want to walk down twelve halls to get to the baby doctor). Call 'em up, ask if they're taking new patients, and find out if they're within your insurance provider network.
How to Get Insurance
If you don't currently have insurance, look into that now. Many employers will allow an exception outside of the enrollment period for a "life event"—pregnancy may be considered one (it should be, anyway).
- If you can't afford employer-provided insurance and do not qualify as a dependent on your parent's health insurance, look into expanded or emergency Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act in your individual state.
- It may also help to ask been-there-done-that moms in your area to help walk you through the process of procuring insurance and recommending a doctor who will meet your needs.
- If none of this works for you, another option is to search for Planned Parenthoods or Pregnancy Care Centers in your area who can help you get the important care you need at the beginning of your pregnancy and provide resources for the coming months.
Write Down Your Contact and Medical Information
As your pregnancy wears on, you'll find yourself spending a lot of time in uncomfortable chairs under the glow of bad waiting room lights, being asked over and over for pertinent information. Believe me, you're going to forget your birthday more than once.
One of the kindest things you can do for yourself as soon as you find out you're pregnant is to record all of your important information and bring it with you to appointments:
Type up or clearly jot down your numbers and dates, these include:
- Your social security number
- Date of last period
- Emergency contacts
- Best phone numbers to reach you at
- Your birthday
Figure out Your Due Date
Use BabyCenter's due date calculator or something similar to get an idea of when your baby is due. You'll need the date your last official period started to do this.
Why is this information useful? It'll help you plan things like maternity leave, vacations, and whether or not you'll be able to teach that jiu-jitsu class this spring.
Automate as Much of Your Life as Possible
Because it's about to get real crazy. Is pregnancy brain a real thing? Many pregnant women will say that it is, and it appears that the hormonal changes are pinned as the culprit. A study trying to get to the bottom of pregnancy brain found that a group of pregnant women in their third trimester performed worse than the control group of non-pregnant women in tests of verbal memory and processing speed.
If you don't already, utilize online banking, prescription refills, and grocery delivery to make more room in your schedule for things like doctor's appointments, fresh air, and naps.
Prevent Stretch Marks
Begin taking care of your skin now to prevent stretch marks and scarring as much as you can. Stretch marks are those long, narrow stripes that develop on the skin when it's suddenly stretched (like when you're growing a baby).
The best way to defend against this happening to the severest degree is to help your skin maintain its elasticity throughout your pregnancy. The goal is to keep it hydrated and support the collagen and elastin fibers in your skin. The stronger they are, the less likely they are to break and leave stretch marks.
- To strengthen collagen, eat foods that help form it: vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, and silica.
- Drink about two liters of water a day to renew your skin.
- Use a topically-applied product like cocoa butter or stretch mark-reducing oil to maximize your skin’s elasticity.
Don't be scared! Stretch marks often fade naturally over time even without any treatment. They also don't bring any long-term health risks, so it's just an external thing.
Check Your Vaccination History
Make sure your vaccination history is up to date. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following guidelines for vaccines you should get before, during, and after pregnancy:
A month or more before pregnancy:
- Tdap vaccine (against whooping cough)
Before or during pregnancy:
- Flu shot
Ask your doctor before getting vaccinated to get as much information about what you need to ensure the health of your baby.
Be Leery of Litter
Got a cat? If you can't have someone else scoop his litter start wearing gloves when you clean his box. That's because cat feces can contain toxoplasmosis - a toxin that's dangerous during pregnancy.
Eat a Slice of Humble Pie
If you're like me (and I'm just going to assume you are at least a little bit like me—if you're not, good for you), you doled out some pretty unwarranted and unsolicited parenting and pregnancy advice before actually becoming pregnant and/or a parent.
Eat it, sister, because everything you thought was so freaking easy is about to come crashing down around you in a kaleidoscope of very humbling karma-filled revelations. Enjoy the ride!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: Should I tell my employer right away that I’m pregnant?
Answer: Probably not. When it comes to telling your employer that you’re pregnant, your first instinct might be to share that news ASAP for fear you won’t be able to do your job as well or just because you’re so excited and like to plan. But there are a few good reasons to hold off on telling your boss like:
- Many women find it more comfortable to wait on sharing their pregnancy until they’re through the first trimester. At this point, you’ve had your first prenatal appointment, heard your baby’s heartbeat and had the initial blood work done.
- You’re in the middle of a big work project and don’t want the news of your pregnancy to distract from the team synergy.
- You haven’t told close friends or family yet, and don’t want the news to leak before you get to tell everyone yourself.
- You legit fear that your manager might hold back hours that you need.
There’s also some pretty good reasons for telling your boss early on in the pregnancy. This is especially so if your job requires you to do things that are physically challenging during pregnancy or that somehow require you to consume things that are unsafe for a fetus (I mean, maybe you’re a professional wine taster, I don’t know). Another reason some women have to let their employers know earlier than expected is that they suffer from debilitating mornings sickness.
My best advice? If your test still hasn’t dried, don’t tell anyone. Give yourself a few days to collect your thoughts, come up with a plan that works for you and then move forward in the way that you feel is best for your situation.
Question: I'm pregnant and I don't want it. What should I do now?
Answer: If you don't want to become a parent you have two options: First, you can consider an abortion and second you can consider adoption and which one to choose will really depend on your individual circumstances.
Here's what to do if you want to have an abortion:
1. Talk to your doctor right away so you can get the process going. Generally speaking, the earlier you are in the pregnancy, the easier it is to have an abortion.
2. Think about if you will need to take any time off from work or school to have the abortion and who will be there to support you.
3. Find out how much it will cost you and look into affordable options through Planned Parenthood. To find one near you just go to plannedparenthood.org for locations.
Here's what to do if you want to pursue adoption:
1. Find an adoption agency near you. To do this, just Google "adoption agencies near me" and Google will help you curate a list of local agencies.
2. Consider how pregnancy will affect you and what changes you might need to temporarily make to accommodate it.
3. Find a friend or two who will support you through your pregnancy and the post-partum period.
Becoming a parent or having another baby when you already have children to take care of isn't for everyone. Don't let outside pressures determine what choice to make. Take some time to yourself to consider all of your options and what they'll mean to you before making your final decision. And remember, the internet is full of people who have been through similar things and their wisdom and experiences can help you figure out what's best for you too.
Question: When I first found out I was pregnant I was pretty excited to join my birth club but found that most women there were snarky, rude and judgemental. Is it just me, or is everyone at BabyCenter cranky and mean?
Answer: No, it’s not just you. Here’s some things to keep in mind about BabyCenter, especially the birth clubs:
First, not everyone in those birth clubs is unkind or mean spirited. But many of the milder tempered members quickly bore of the Mean Girl drama and after their morning sickness has worn off they’re back in the real world and off the BabyCenter app. This leaves the few members who literally seem to have nothing better to do with their time than to one-up strangers on the internet with tired GIFs. (But seriously, no one who has their real-life priorities straight can find the time/energy to stay up until 3 a.m. on a Friday night arguing circumcision with a bunch of strangers).
Second, many of the women who are unkind in a virtual echo chamber, whether it be on this particular site or any other mom-based chat board, probably don’t feel they have much of a voice in their real lives, for any number of reasons. Dominating the conversations and overall attitude of a particular board gives them a sense of power they lack in the real world, not unlike those people you follow on Instagram who portray perfect lives in your feed while things fall apart behind the scenes.
Last, and I do feel kind of lame going here but feel there’s some truth to it - hormones are hard. Pregnant women are both over-sensitive to their feelings and insensitive to the feelings of others. I only feel okay with making this sort of blanket statement because when I was pregnant, I felt comfortable crying because McDonald’s no longer carried my favorite holiday-themed shake while simultaneously blaming the completely powerless worker who had to break the news to me. Not cool, not cool.
Question: I'm pregnant, when will I start to show?
Answer: For most first time pregnancies you can expect to begin showing by five months when the baby begins to spread out and away from your pelvic area, though the answer to this is totally dependent on a plethora of factors that include:
- How long your torso is. Women with long torsos will take longer to show because there's more room for baby to hide in there.
- How many times you've been pregnant before. You'll show earlier in subsequent pregnancies because your uterus is already stretched out from carrying babies before. I showed earlier on in my second pregnancy than I did in my first.
- How bloated you are. Yep, we associate that early pregnancy bloat with a baby bump but the truth is it's just air and Gatorade in there! In early pregnancy, the baby is really low down in your pelvic area - a place where pregnancy doesn't show.
© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 27, 2017:
Great hub and it should help ease the tensions and apprehensions of a mother who is expecting for the first time.
I remember my days, when I had the same set of questions in my mind, some thirty three years ago to be precise.
My mother was the first person I told and she guided me about everything and every care and preparation I needed to make. Of course I told my husband along with her but his also was a first time experience to become a father--Right!
It is better to take advice from people who are experienced and take care of issues at the crucial stages of pregnancy, if any!
Thanks for sharing this wonderful and informative hub that will help many!