Whether this was planned or a surprise, during the “perfect” time of life (has that ever happened to anyone?!) or during the when-it-rains-it-pours time of life, there is always this little stomach-leap that happens when a pregnancy test turns positive. (Ok, ok, sometimes a big stomach leap.) And more often that not, after the excitement and giggles wear off, a woman thinks, ‘Ok, I’m pregnant. Now what do I do?’
1. Take a moment… and then celebrate!
So give yourself a little bit of time to process the news, and then celebrate it! Take time to go out to dinner, take a side-shot photo to start documenting your pregnancy, or just spend some happy time thinking about who this little person is and will be.
If this was an unplanned pregnancy, the celebrating part can be really hard. It may be that you just got your career started, or that you are in an unstable relationship, or you’ve just had a baby. Regardless of what it is that is making you nervous or afraid, take a moment to acknowledge that the fear or anxiety is okay and a normal feeling. And then start thinking of ways to handle that fear or anxiety. If you’re afraid of labor and birth, take a birth class. If you’re nervous about having a 9-month-pregnant belly, start looking at beautiful pictures of women in pregnancy and print off some pregnancy affirmations. If you’re in a tight financial situation, find your local WIC office or call Public Health for resources.
Some women choose to share with their family and friends as soon as they find out, and others wait until about the 2nd trimester (when the risk of miscarriage is much lower). Obviously, this is a very personal decision.
2. Begin taking a whole-foods prenatal vitamin.
If you hadn’t started taking a prenatal prior to conception, definitely begin now. The folate is extremely important for neurological development and can prevent neurological defects (things like spina bifida).
The type of folate, or folic acid, present in your multivitamin may be really important depending on if you have the MTHFR gene mutation. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 women in our population have this mutation, which basically means that their body has difficulty using folic acid because of lack of enzyme activity to process that nutrient. This inability to use the folic acid is thought to be a possible cause of some miscarriages. You can read more about folic acid versus folate supplementation in this interview with a Registered Dietitian. Along with your prenatal, you can get folate from foods like dark, leafy greens; citrus fruits; beans and legumes; avocado; and liver. (For more information, Natural Fertility Info has very informative articles on the MTHFR Gene and getting enough folate in pregnancy.)
3. Sign up for an Early Pregnancy Class.
There are so many changes your body is about to go through. That is beautiful and wonderful, but it can be nerve-wracking if you don’t understand what’s going on. Just knowing what to expect can make a big difference in how you handle those changes and how you feel about your pregnancy in general. A good early pregnancy class will provide you with information about first trimester changes, eating well in pregnancy, appropriate pregnancy exercises, relaxation and emotional preparation, local providers and resources, as well as answer any questions you may have.
4. Stock up on nutritious, easy-to-make foods and snacks.
The first few months of pregnancy can be exhausting and/or nauseating.
Having foods ready for those ravenous moments will be essential. (Not even kidding – one time when I was in my first trimester, I came home and we had no snacks except for tortilla chips. And I was scooping out the crumbs and licking them off my hands I was so hungry.)
It’s just as important to have foods at-the-ready for nausea. I found that if I ate a few crackers before I even got out of bed, I had no problems. I started that as soon as I found out I was pregnant and although I experienced mild nausea occasionally, I never had morning sickness. Just in case, here are some other tips on solving morning sickness.
5. Start incorporating exercise into your daily routine.
I tell my Birth Boot Camp students all the time – birth is like a marathon. Both birth and marathons require great physical and mental exertion, and it’s important to prepare for them. Marathon runners spend a great deal of time getting ready with exercise and nutrition. Birth is no different! Labor can span a few days at times, and your body needs to be healthy and ready for that event. If you’ve already signed up for your early pregnancy class, then you’ve learned about some of the wonderful exercises you can start. If you haven’t signed up yet, here are a few pregnancy exercises to get you started. Make it a point to set aside a little bit of time each day for those exercises, as well as walking or swimming. Walking allows time for fresh air and sunshine, and you can tote along older kids in a stroller or take them to the park. Swimming creates buoyancy, which relieves body aches as your baby starts to get bigger.
6. Add relaxation to your daily self-care.
Again, birth is like a marathon. Marathon runners need mental prep just as much as physical prep. Spending time learning how to relax, both your muscles and your mind, will allow relaxation to become second nature for labor and birth. Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, after watching a woman birth without pain, hypothesized that it was fear that created pain in labor and childbirth. He believed there was a cycle of fear, tension, and pain. The fear of childbirth led to muscle tension, the muscle tension led to pain, and the pain increased the fear… which kept the cycle going. By learning to mentally relax and look forward to birth with excitement, a great deal of this fear can be eliminated. There are many ways to practice relaxation: massage, audio recordings or loved ones reading, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, etc. And you can fine-tune all of those with things like music, candles, blankets and pillows, soft lighting… the list goes on and on!
7. Begin reading and preparing for birth and breastfeeding.
There are so many wonderful books out there about birth and breastfeeding, and it’s never too early to start learning. Women used to learn about birth when they attended the births of their mothers, aunts, sisters, or friends. They knew what to expect prior to their own birth, and they knew what breastfeeding looked like because that was the norm. In our culture, most women have never seen another woman birth naturally prior to the birth of their own child. And many have never seen a woman breastfeed; if they have, it usually was not breastfeeding without a cover. The mystery of it all can definitely lead to fear, and even problems, in birth and breastfeeding.
Here a couple books to get you started:
- The Pregnancy Book by Dr. Sears
- The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
- Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher
And there you have it! Seven easy steps to take after finding out you’re expecting. Congratulations!