Your Guide to Pregnancy
Pregnancy and birth
The following guide offers helpful advice and suggestions about what you need to do next.
If you have just found out that you are pregnant, then the chances are that you are in at least the fourth week of your pregnancy.
If you have been preparing for pregnancy, you will probably already be aware of the following information, but have a quick read through anyway, just to make sure you haven't missed anything!
Pregnancy and birth
If you have not been preparing for pregnancy then you need to read through the following guide to find out what you need to do next.
Either way, start recording your diary now!
Visit your doctor or specialist
You should visit your doctor, midwife or specialist as soon as you have produced a positive pregnancy result. Your doctor may perform a second pregnancy test (usually the same urine test you have performed at home, or a blood test) to confirm the result. A number of routine tests and measurements are usually taken to determine base levels which will be used to monitor changes during your pregnancy.
Some tests that may be carried out include:
- Urine test
- Blood test
- Blood pressure
- Internal examination (may or may not be performed at the first visit)
- External examination
This is a great time to talk to your doctor about your choices for care during pregnancy and birth and to find out where you can get more information. If you have lots of questions, write them down and take them along to your appointment- it's easy to forget things once you are in the surgery and you're going to have a lot of questions to ask over the next 40 or so weeks.
How do I know how pregnant I am, and how is my pregnancy measured and dated?
A woman's menstrual cycle is on average 28 days long. Using this 28-day average, fertilisation or conception normally occurs at around day 14 or the middle of your cycle (2 weeks after your last period and 2 weeks before your next period). Although (based on an average 28-day cycle) conception is likely to occur on day 14 of your cycle; the start of your pregnancy is actually calculated from the start date of your last menstrual period (LMP), or day 1 of your cycle.
Given this method of calculation, your pregnancy is measured in what is termed gestational weeks, as opposed to being measured from the actual day of conception. Counting from the first day of your LMP, there are 40 gestational weeks of pregnancy. Assuming that you have a 28-day cycle, in gestational weeks 1 and 2, your baby is waiting to be conceived. On day 14,and at the start of gestational week 3, your baby has just been created. By the end of gestational week 3, the actual age of your baby is one week.
What if I don't have a regular 28-day cycle and ovulation doesn't usually occur on day 14?
If your menstrual cycle is longer than 28 days, or irregular, the day of conception could be any time after day 14, and it will be more difficult to confirm exact dates in the early stages of your pregnancy. To determine the gestational age of your baby, your doctor may perform a blood test to measure the level of pregnancy hormone, or you may undergo an early ultrasound to confirm exact dates.
Do not listen to anyone who makes claims that smoking a couple of cigarettes is alright, or "my mother smoked through all of her pregnancies and my family has no problems!". Research clearly indicates that smoking increases the risk of problems with your unborn baby AND links have been made to effects on the development of your baby after birth. If you need help then get it but whatever you do - quit now!
During pregnancy and later during breastfeeding your body needs more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. In addition to fueling your body and providing for the needs of your growing baby, the increased tissue of the uterus, placenta and blood requires more calories, vitamins, minerals and protein.
If your diet has been lacking or you have poor eating habits, it is time to rectify them! If you need advice or assistance with understanding how to eat a balanced diet, talk to your doctor who can refer you to a dietician if necessary.
Your body is a temple, and now it's a temple for your baby too! Now's a good time to use your pregnancy as motivation to get, and stay, fit.
Familiarise yourself with hazards & precautions
Read through hazards & precautions During Pregnancy, and be sure to ask your doctor about any issues which may arise regarding the safety of your unborn child.
Take folate supplements
If you have not already been taking a folate supplement, your doctor will most likely recommend that you begin straight away. It is generally recommended that you take folate supplements for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.
Book hospital or clinic
You will be expected to book in to a hospital or birth clinic quite early in your pregnancy. Take a look at our section on choosing a hospital and birth choices to help you gather information to plan the birth that is right for you!Take time out
As your pregnancy progresses, it is important to allow yourself regular "breaks" to simply relax and absorb all of the changes that are going on in your body.
During your first trimester in particular, you are most likely going to be extremely tired. Get into the habit of taking some time to rest and relax. Have a massage, sit in a quiet place with your feet up for 15 minutes or go for a relaxing walk. It is important that you get the rest you need!
Chat with Essential Baby members about pregnancy in our live forums.