I Just Found out I'm Pregnant—What Should I Do Now?
What to Do When You Find out You're Pregnant
The first time I found out I was pregnant, I was immediately overcome with the daunting question of, "Well, what in the heck do I do now?!" 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 hyperemesis 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 are ten things (plus a few extras!) 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.
If you're not yet sure whether you're pregnant or not, consider whether you are experiencing early pregnancy symptoms. Take a urine test at home, or ask your doctor to get a blood test done. Here's to a healthy pregnancy!
Nutrition & Health
1. 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.
2. Stock up on Pregnancy-Friendly Clothes
Chances are you won't need maternity clothes for a while because a baby bump isn't usually visible until you're heading into the second trimester—especially in the first pregnancy. At the same time, bloating is a common pregnancy experience, and wearing your pre-pregnancy favorites like skinny jeans and belted dresses can feel super uncomfortable pressing into your growing uterus.
Now's a good a time to pull out your stash of hoodies, leggings, and sweats from the back of your closet. Once you've taken inventory of what you already own, invest in a few items:
- A few pairs of durable, non-sheer leggings
- Several stretchy jersey dresses
- Supportive shoes (ditch the wedges)
- Nursing bra (or two)
You'll also be glad to have this comfy wardrobe on hand post-baby when you're on the verge of burning your maternity jeans but are still not ready to go back to your pre-baby outfits.
3. Drink 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.
4. 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.
- Iron: 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.
If you're not already taking a vitamin supplement, start researching until you find one that fits your needs. Begin with a small bottle so you won't be throwing your money away if a particular brand doesn't work for you. There are tons of options out there, from fruit-flavored gummies and chewables to all-natural capsules that can be taken with a glass of milk before bed. If you plan to breastfeed or pump, you'll want to continue taking a prenatal post-partum as well.
5. Think About Getting a Blood Test
If you've already taken an at-home pregnancy test (HPT) and it's clearly come up positive, then you may not need a blood test to confirm your pregnancy. Some doctors may require it, but neither of mine ever did.
Two types of blood tests are available on the market:
- Qualitative Blood Test: This quantifies the exact amount of hCG in the blood.
- Qualitative hCG Blood Test: Like the urine test, this blood test provides a yes-or-no answer to whether you're pregnant.
What Is hCG?
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin: A hormone produced by the placenta when implantation takes place. Its purpose is to notify the body to maintain the production of high levels of progesterone, which prevents a period from occurring and boosts body temperature.
Disadvantages to Getting a Blood Test:
- Money: It's more expensive to get a blood test than a urine test. The prices depend on the cost of the doctor's visit and the lab fees.
- Time: It takes longer to get a result from a blood test than a urine test. However, the former is more accurate than the latter.
- Place: The test must be done in a doctor’s office.
6. Shake Up Your Diet
I am actually not going to sit here and tell you to eat healthier. Early pregnancy is basically the worst and most unfair time to tell a woman to eat healthier when just eating at all can feel like a chore.
Instead, I will tell you from my own experience to shake it up.
- If you're craving ice cream, go get that ice cream but grab a green juice while you're staring at the cooler.
- Switch out your midnight bowl of pre-sweetened cereal for a less sugary option, and throw in some dark chocolate chips for good measure (this pairing works especially well with Kashi cereals and almond milk).
- Add a dash of nutritional yeast to that bowl of popcorn before you settle in for an evening of Netflix.
When pregnancy hunger strikes, it hits like a wrecking ball and can take you down with little to no warning. This is why I am now going to tell you to do a few things with some authority:
- Throw packets of cashews and almonds in your purse before you leave the house.
- Stash dried cherries in your glove compartment (unless it's 80°F out—that's a food-borne illness waiting to happen).
- Stock up on cans of veggie-fruit juice mixes to grab on your way out the door.
It's a good idea to get used to eating little snacks often if you plan to pump or nurse, as you'll need to eat regularly to maintain your energy.
Also, chat with your OB about what's safe and unsafe to consume during pregnancy, including certain fish, deli meats, and soft cheeses. Or just search online. A warning though: when it comes to questions about your pregnancy, avoid the quagmire that is BabyCenter Birth Boards and head straight for sites like AmericanPregnancy.org for legit advice over the next nine months.
If you still want to look into general foods that are good to eat, here is a brief list:
- Lean proteins
- Healthy fats
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruits
If you want to eat foods to supplement the prenatal vitamins, here are a few good options:
- Leafy green vegetables (like spinach)
- Citrus fruits
- Non-fat milk
- Bok choy
- Red meat (well-cooked)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
7. 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 change goes a long way to creating healthy routines.
What are other exercises to try?
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day
8. Get to Bed a Little Earlier
I know everyone says it, but it's the truth: this is the end of the line for you and a solid night's sleep. Once the baby gets here, it will never happen again—at least, not for another four years, give or take. Take advantage of your sleepy state, your momentary independence, and your cozy bed. Tuck yourself in a little earlier each night until that sweet babe arrives.
9. Look Through Your Household Cleaners
Try not to use anything with harmful chemicals that could hurt you and your child. However, American Pregnancy says that most products are actually safe to use during your pregnancy.
If you don't feel good about using cleaning products that have chemicals in it, feel free to look into natural recipes. You can even use just vinegar and baking soda to clean most surfaces in your home.
- Sprinkle the baking soda over the area.
- Add the vinegar.
- Let them work together for a bit.
- Wipe it away to clean the surface.
If you want to DIY all of your house cleaners, Kathryn of Do It on a Dime shares many different recipes that you can try!
10. 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. If you want to save it but know you shouldn't take something during pregnancy, just put it in a container and hide it where you know you won't look for medication.
At the very least, avoid the following:
- Castor oil
Remember to ask your doctor about what you can take before ingesting any medicine!
11. Get Rid of Clothes That Are Too Small
If any clothes didn't fit you the week you found out you were pregnant, I'm sorry to say they're never going to fit you again. Make room for a looser wardrobe by decluttering garments that are too small and out-of-style. Hauling them to your local thrift shop or sell them online to make a little extra cash.
Friends and Family
12. Decide When (and to Whom) You're Going to Announce the News
As soon as that test reveals your big fat positive, it can be tempting to Snapchat the amazingness before you've even zipped your pants.
Who to Tell That You're Pregnant
Now that you know for sure you're pregnant, you'll want to determine who to tell right away and who should wait to hear your big news. Telling your mom and telling your Facebook friends will likely be two different scenarios. Think about who will be directly involved in your pregnancy—your partner, parents, or a close friend—and build your support system by telling those people first.
For those who'll be involved from a distance, waiting until the second or even third trimester can save you from having your belly poked by coworkers before it's even showing and stave off the parade of questions from "What will you name the baby?" to "I have fifteen boxes of baby clothes, when can I drop them off?"
How to Tell People You're Pregnant
How you tell someone is just as important as when you do. I made the rather selfish mistake of telling my brother I was pregnant with my first daughter on Facebook messenger a few days after I found out. Seriously. He's still pretty mad about it, and she's been potty trained for a year now.
- Make it a point to tell the people most important to baby's life in person when you're ready.
- For everyone else, use your own discretion about who to call, visit, or message before you announce your pregnancy on social media.
Why You Should Wait to Tell People
Most women decide to announce their pregnancy at the end of the first trimester. This is because the risk of miscarriage drops substantially around the 10-12 week mark, which helps keep things private in the case you miscarry.
13. Stock Thank You Cards and Stamps
The gifts will start popping up out of nowhere. Be prepared by keeping a set of cards and stamps on hand so you don't forget to thank them for their thoughtfulness, care, and generosity.
Also, be nice to your nurses and make them cookies to give them little pick-me-ups! You can also write them appreciation notes so they know you're grateful. They'll remember it when you come in to deliver your baby!
14. Talk to Your Mama Friends
Think of friends who are already mamas of their own children. If the kids are outgrowing their wardrobes, ask your friends for clothes you can borrow. You'll only need them for a few months until your child grows, and you can thank them with a latte or sweet treat in exchange!
- Keep this task on the back burner, or at least until you hit the week that you want to start sharing the news of your pregnancy.
- Make sure to pre-wash the clothes before the baby comes!
15. Chat With Your Mom and Grandma
Ask your mom and your grandma about their pregnancies. No, this isn't just a bonding experience. It's also a great way to research your family history of certain health conditions you may not know about. 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.
16. Talk to Your Boss
Talk to your workplace about maternity leave. Before you do so, make sure to have already decided when you want to start telling people about your pregnancy. Also, figure out what you want to do with your future.
- Do you want to come back to work after having a baby?
- Do you want to stay home full time and take care of your child?
- Do you know what your workplace offers for expecting mothers?
Think about the logistics behind your choices so you don't go into the discussion unprepared.
17. Take Lots of Photos
While you may not want to go overboard at this point, taking a few photos to capture you at this exhilarating point in your life is a good idea. Taking pictures each week will be a fun way to document how your body is changing.
- Try doing a fun pose or do the same pose each week for a DIY stop-motion type look!
- The early photos you take can also motivate you once you have your baby and want to lose the weight.
Your friends and family will love seeing these photos, so have fun with it!
18. 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.
19. 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 like your social security number, date of last period, emergency contacts, allergies, best phone numbers, and birthday. 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.
- Type up or clearly jot down your numbers and dates.
- Bring it them with you to appointments so you can either pass it over to reception to input themselves or have handy to jog your memory on those very real baby-brain days.
20. 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.
21. 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.
Make your life easy! 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.
22. Download a Fun Pregnancy App
Nothing helps pass the time faster than playing around with due dates, predicting your little one's gender based on weather patterns, arguing with moms halfway across the country, and comparing the size of your growing baby to similar-sized fruit. Ovia and BabyCenter were my two favorites.
23. Read Books
Absorb as much information as you can at the beginning of your pregnancy. The goal isn't to have everything memorized in one go (although if you can do that, kudos to you!). As you learn things that apply to your current stage, it'll help you worry less about what's going on and increase your understanding of the entire process. If something happens and you know you've read about it somewhere, you can more easily find it from the books you have or look online for resources to satisfy your curiosity.
24. Document Your Pregnancy
This is such a special time of your life, and I can tell you that it passes by so quickly. Perhaps consider getting a baby journal to record the journey and capture little moments, such as when you feel the first kick later down the road!
Should you have another child down the road, you can read through your journal to compare and contrast your pregnancy experience.
25. Start Saving a Little Money Each Week
I think everyone who considers having a child has at one point thought about the (seemingly) overwhelming cost of raising one. Here's a secret: babies don't ask for anything except food and a fresh diaper. Simply focus on those things, and everything else will figure itself out over the next few months.
Remember, there are a lot of affordable diapering and feeding options, from breastfeeding to formula. You'll also find resources in place if you have trouble making ends meet on these things. As time goes on, you'll figure out clever ways to find great deals and make room in the budget for your new baby's needs.
If you have a little piggy bank or container, consider setting aside anything, from five dollars a week to twenty dollars a week to save for your baby.
26. Sign Up for Baby Classes
Once you decide on a hospital, take a look online or ask the staff about baby classes. It's a great way to ease yourself into preparing for the next stage of your life.
Here is a sampling of the classes you'll be able to find at the hospital:
- What to expect from a newborn
- How to clean your newborn (diapering and bathing)
- Baby appearance and characteristics
- Nursery routines in the hospital
- When to call the doctor
- Basics of keeping your child safe
- How to feed your baby
- The sleep states of newborns
- How to cope with crying
- How to relieve choking
- How to perform CPR on an infant
27. Write Things Down
This task is pretty open. You can write about anything, but I recommend jotting things down along the way. Ideas can include:
- symptoms you're experiencing.
- foods you're craving.
- thoughts about this time in your life.
- questions to ask your doctor.
28. Find a Baby Photographer
Look up a baby photographer and pin your favorite poses. You might not end up hiring a photographer and might go with a photographer friend instead, but seeing different styles can give you a fun way to anticipate your baby's arrival.
29. Research Baby Items
Now, don't worry about putting together a nursery or upsizing your home. In reality, your baby is probably going to sleep in your room for the first few months. I don't care what all of those picture-perfect moms say. Research compact cribs or co-sleepers when you feel ready for it, but save the house hunting for after baby's first birthday.
In the meantime, look into products that you've heard fellow mamas recommend. The sooner you look, the better you'll be able to scoop up items with a good deal or discount. Save that money for other expenses down the line!
30. Think About Freezer Meals
You don't have to make freezer meals immediately. However, I'd recommend looking into recipes that you enjoy making or have been wanting to try. That way, you can get comfortable whipping them out in large batches and freezing them a month before you're due. When you come back from the hospital (or wherever you give birth), you can come home to a well-stocked freezer and eat homemade food!
- Tip: When you freeze your food, make them as flat as possible. For example, with soup, seal the bag and lay it on its side so that it freezes in a thin rectangle. That way, you can stack more meals together and create a "filing system" of food in your freezer for easy access.
31. Get a Car Seat
No, it's not too early to get one! When you've found a brand and model you trust, purchase one to practice using it in the car. It might feel weird because you don't have a living person to buckle in yet, but it's best to know how to use it enough to make the process second nature.
32. Brainstorm Baby Names
If you already have a name picked out, that's awesome! However, unless you plan to have everything of your baby's monogrammed before he or she gets here, it's unnecessary to have a name picked out this early. I think it can be a fun pastime during the next few months as you await their arrival.
33. Get to Know Your Body
Get to know what’s going to happen to your body and your baby. That way, you won't be caught off guard or worry needlessly.
What are a few things that may happen that you want to know about?
- Stretch marks
- Varicose veins
- Swollen ankles
- Body aches
- Breast enlargement/changes
- Leg cramps
- Morning sickness
- Frequent urination
34. 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.
35. Get a Big Tub of Cocoa Butter
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 Bio-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.
36. Go to the Dentist
Schedule a dental checkup, as bacteria can hurt your baby. You should get preventive dental cleanings and exams because the increase in hormone levels during pregnancy causes your gums to swell, bleed, and trap food—all of this leads to extra gum irritation. Oral infections such as gum disease have been linked to preterm birth, so taking care of fillings and crowns is a good idea.
37. 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!
Learn More About How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy
- Make a Pregnancy Journal to Remember the Details
Unfortunately, here's what everyone forgot to tell you: you are going to forget the small changes that happen during pregnancy. I will teach you how to make a pregnancy journal or notebook to keep those memories from escaping.
- Prenatal Vitamins Before, During, and After Pregnancy
Prenatal vitamins can be taken before, during, and after pregnancy. Learn when to start taking prenatal vitamins, what prenatal vitamins do, and what their benefits are for your body.
- What to Eat During Pregnancy
It is important to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy. Learn how to eat well and what kinds of foods to eat when you are pregnant.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg