I'm Pregnant—What Should I Do Next?
Whether it was a surprise or intentional, you’re pregnant. The first emotion was probably shock. Then the floodgates opened, and you felt a hundred emotions all at once. Now you’re left you wondering—what do I do next?
Preparing is much easier when you’re intentionally trying to conceive, but most people are surprised either way. If you’ve recently taken a pregnancy test and had it come back positive, you need to think about your next steps. Below is a list of things expecting mothers should do soon after discovering their pregnancy.
1. Confirm the Pregnancy With Your Doctor
After getting a positive reading on an at-home pregnancy test, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Although rare, pregnancy tests can sometimes display false-positive readings. This means that even though it says you’re pregnant you may not be.
Scheduling an appointment is an important first step. Once you know for a fact that you're indeed pregnant, you can start making other decisions. The longer you go without proper medical care, the more things could go wrong. Some people put it off because they’re scared to find out the truth, but this only robs you of choices.
What Causes a Fale-Positive Pregnancy Tests?
Before we can understand why a test might fail, we must first understand how a pregnancy test works. When a woman becomes pregnant, her body will produce a hormone called hCG. The test works by detecting elevated levels of this hormone in urine that's placed onto a certain part of the stick. There's a handful of things that can cause the device to read positive when it’s not.
- If the test sits too long, the urine will start to evaporate. This can cause the illusion of a second line which generally points towards a positive result.
- Expired tests are unreliable because the chemicals used to detect hormones in the urine will dissipate over time. This can lead to a malfunction of the pregnancy test.
- Many fertility medications contain hormones to help a woman conceive and prepare her body for pregnancy. If a test is taken too soon after the medication was administered it could cause a false read.
- As sad as it is, miscarriages are most likely in the very early stages of pregnancy. In some cases, a woman may not realize she miscarried, and even though she technically is no longer pregnant, her body is still behaving as though it is. This causes elevated hormone levels, which we already know a test will detect.
2. Do Some Soul Searching
In an ideal world, everyone would be happy and able to raise their child, but that's not reality. There are many situations that a woman might find herself in when she becomes pregnant, and not all of them are fairy tales. Once you know for sure you’re pregnant, take a day or two to do some serious thinking. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Am I prepared for this responsibility?
- Am I able to raise a child?
- What is my financial/housing situation?
- Is my partner going to be involved or am I doing this alone?
- What support systems do I have in place?
- Will I be able to keep my job?
- Do I want the responsibility of a child?
It’s a sensitive subject, but some people find themselves pregnant when they know there's no way they can handle that responsibility right now. They may be homeless or unable to provide the basic care that a baby needs. In situations such as these, a mother must decide if she wants to keep the child, if they can turn their situation around, or consider adoption.
3. Make a Game Plan
Nine months sounds like a long time until you start counting down the days. Then it goes by quickly—even faster if you found out you were pregnant late. Make a game plan early and give yourself enough time to get everything done. Things such as:
- Finding a job
- Saving money for maternity leave
- Getting into a bigger apartment or house
- Getting a vehicle or larger car
- Getting everything you need for the baby
These all take time. If you’re unsure how to go about doing the things you need to do, you can look for help in your area. There are many programs available for pregnant women who are down on their luck, or have become pregnant unexpectedly.
If you’re pregnant and homeless or don’t have a secure source of income, you may want to visit your local human service department. They offer assistance for families in need and can help set up child support when the other parent is absent. Sometimes they may be able to help with housing.
Sign up for low-income housing as soon as you can—if you need to—because the waiting lists for those programs can be long and can sometimes take years to get in. If you don’t have a home, or are not living in a suitable environment for a child, you might get bumped up the list.
4. Get Prenatal Vitamins
Women trying to get pregnant might already be taking a prenatal vitamin, but those who were surprised by pregnancy should start taking it immediately. It’s important for mommy to replenish what baby is taking from her, and baby needs them to grow and develop.
Is There a Difference Between Multivitamins and Prenatal Vitamins?
I’m already taking a multivitamin, do I need to switch to a prenatal vitamin now that I’m pregnant? This is a very common question among expecting mothers, and the answer is yes. But why?
Multivitamins are designed to meet the daily needs of a healthy adult male or female, but they don’t contain enough for a growing baby. Folic acid, calcium, and iron are just a few of the important vitamins essential to a baby’s growth. Prenatal vitamins have higher amounts of these important vitamins and minerals. When taken daily, it will help avoid birth defects and result in a healthier pregnancy.
5. Start a Pregnancy Journal
Okay, shopping is required for this one but not for baby stuff- just a notebook. Splurge on a nice-looking journal or notebook because it’s something you’ll want to pass down to your child. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time writing in it, it should be durable. Some people like to get them personalized or engraved, but that’s something you can always add later. There are many reasons why you should keep a pregnancy journal.
- Your child will be able to read it when they get older.
- You can write down intimate thoughts and feelings that you might want to remember.
- It might help you get through the more difficult parts of pregnancy.
- It can help you work through tough decisions.
- You can keep ideas all in one handy place for quick reference later.
- It can be used as a guide for others during your labor when you might be unable to communicate your desires effectively.
6. Make a Birthing Plan
It might sound a little early to think about giving birth, but it's one of the most important parts of pregnancy. The first step is deciding what you would like your labor and delivery to be like. There are many options available to expecting mothers today.
Dedicating the first few pages of your baby journal to this is a good idea because it gives you a space to play with ideas, and if you are ever unable to voice your desires, someone can peek at it to find out what you wanted.
What are My Birthing Options?
A hundred years ago there weren’t many options available for women when it came to labor. Luckily, we live in a generation that allows several birthing choices, and mom can tailor her labor and delivery to what makes her most comfortable.
Because there are so many options, it would take forever to explain them all, but you should research the different scenarios and make a plan that suits you and your beliefs.
Involve your partner in the decision-making process because even though they are not physically pushing out a baby, they’re having a baby too. Delivering a baby doesn’t have to be scary, and should be a beautiful experience.
Even though you’ll have your heart set on a certain birth plan, you need to be open to other options if your plan does not work. Sometimes our body and baby have their own agenda.
|Type of Childbirth||Explanation|
The use of medication or physical assistance is limited. This option focuses on mom and baby working together. It requires relaxation and breathing techniques.
The baby is delivered through the vagina but mom may use medication to control the pain.
The baby is retrieved by doctors who have cut through moms abdomen. This is generally not an option unless there are reasonable concerns about vaginal birth, or complications during childbirth. People who have had cesarean before will probably always have them afterwards.
With the help of a trained midwife, the baby is born at home. Medication is unavailable and there is limited medical support.
Mom labors and delivers her baby in a pool of warm water, or a bathtub. This option is available at home and some hospitals.
7. Choose a Prenatal Doctor or Midwife
Choosing a doctor is not as simple as opening the phone book and picking a name. There are numerous things that new parents should consider when deciding on a doctor or midwife.
Once you have decided how you would like your labor and delivery to go, you need to find a doctor who will support these decisions. Different doctors specialize in certain areas, and finding one you’re most comfortable with might take time. Asking around is a great way to find a good doctor that people would recommend.
Not all doctors follow through with the entire delivery process. It’s very common for the doctor on duty to deliver a child, even if they never saw you as a patient. This is a great question to ask potential doctors before committing to one.
What's the Difference Between a Midwife, Doula, or Doctor?
The difference between a doula, doctor, or midwife resides in their training and education.
A doctor has received the most education and has completed a residency where they trained underneath another more experienced doctor.
A midwife is usually a nurse. They have completed their RN degree. Nurses are the ones who typically care for the mom while she is in labor, and the doctor comes in right before the delivery. Midwives do the same thing as a nurse but deliver the baby as well.
A doula is basically a birthing coach. They help remind you to breathe and tell you when to push. Doulas do not have medical training and cannot deliver a baby.
8. Avoid Stretch Marks With Lotion
Every woman worries about stretch marks, but there is a way to reduce the amount of stretch marks you get during a pregnancy—lotion. Any lotion will work, but ones that include cocoa butter in their ingredients work the best. The goal is to keep skin hydrated enough that it won’t tear when it stretches.
9. Take Pictures of Your Belly
Besides keeping a journal, taking pictures is a great way to document your pregnancy journey. You could take a before and after photo, take pictures each week, or even dedicate a specific outfit for the photographs. Tap into your creativity and document your pregnancy with images as well as words.
10. Start Living Healthier
You’re not by yourself anymore, and it is more important than ever to take care of your body. Eating well is vital to your pregnancy. There are some things you should avoid while pregnant and researching a healthy pregnancy diet is a must. You don’t have to cut everything you enjoy out of your life, but moderation is the key.
If you smoke, you should quit instantly. Smoking can lead to birth defects and other complications of the fetus. If you have a hard time quitting, talk to your doctor about things that could help.
For obvious reasons, drinking during pregnancy is dangerous. Besides the fact that you could have an accident, alcohol could severely harm the fetus, and children whose parents drink while pregnant may have developmental problems.
11. Double Check Your Current Medications
Your baby is vulnerable to anything you put in your body, and some medications can have negative side effects when taken during pregnancy. It’s always a smart idea to contact your doctor or pharmacy ASAP after finding out you’re expecting to confirm your medications are still safe to take. They may swap you over to something a bit safer, or take you off from them completely.
Many over-the-counter drugs are harmful to take while pregnant, so you should always read the warning label. Don't assume it's safe just because you don't need a prescription for it. Pharmacists will often answer questions about OTC medications if you ask. It's normal to feel aches and pains during pregnancy—your body is growing in ways it's not used to growing—but a lot of pain medications are unsafe to take. Always double-check before you ingest anything while pregnant.
12. Research Your Family Tree
It might sound odd; you just found out you’re pregnant and researching your family history is probably the farthest thing from your thoughts, but it is important.
If there’s a history of complications in your family's past, you’ll want to know about it so you can talk to your doctor and watch for signs of the same problem during your pregnancy.
The chances of becoming pregnant with multiples are increased when there is a family history of twins. Checking for this information could help you avoid a blindsiding situation.
- I'm Pregnant: What Do I Do Now? | BabyCenter
Use this helpful list to find out what to do and what not to do now that you're pregnant.
- I'm Pregnant! Now What? | Fit Pregnancy and Baby
Figuring out what steps to take next can be overwhelming. To the rescue: our simple checklist breaks out your most important to-dos.
- You're pregnant: Now what? | womenshealth.gov
Learn about prenatal care, pregnancy stages, complications, and more.
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.
© 2018 Meagan Ireland