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Pregnant? What Now?!

So you have got a positive pregnancy test - congratulations! If you are unsure where to go from here, fear not. I'm here to tell you all you need to know about what to do as you embark on this exciting (and sometimes daunting) journey.


Everyone's conception journey is different. Perhaps your pregnancy was unplanned, or maybe it happened much quicker than your were expecting! Maybe this pregnancy has been a long time coming, or you've conceived with medical assistance. No matter how you got here, jour story has begun and with it comes a multitude of emotions. It can also feel lonely if you aren't ready to share your news with the world, and don't know where to turn. In this post I will discuss practical information about accessing care and things you can do to support your pregnancy.



woman holding positive pregnancy test on her abdomen, hands making a heart shape


So let's talk about your care options, how you can access care, the things you can do to optimise your health, and how you can prepare for your pregnancy, parenting and birth journey.


How To Access Care


Gone are the days where you see your GP who confirms your pregnancy by means of a test and refers you to a midwife (or midwives) for your pregnancy care. Now you can pee on a stick in the comfort of your home and can find out that you're pregnant before you've even missed a period. Not only this, but you can access a midwife directly who will get the ball rolling with your antenatal care. You can now decide whether you would like to have your care through the NHS, pay for private services or perhaps a combination of both.


NHS Care:

You can refer yourself to most local maternity systems through an online self-referral form. If you look up your local hospital, birth centre or midwifery teams online you will find instructions on how to inform them of your pregnancy and they will then contact you to make an appointment. If you need further support with self-referrals there is usually a maternity helpline or antenatal clinic that you can call. Your local midwives will see you for a "booking appointment" where they will find out a bit more about you and make a care plan for your pregnancy, referring you to any other healthcare professionals where necessary.


Private Care:

image of a midwife auscultating a fetal heartbeat using a doppler

There are a multitude of private services available for pregnancy. You can pay for one-off appointments with midwives & obstetricians, as well as other professionals such as osteopaths, physiotherapists, nutritionists and other birth workers. You can also book care packages with a private midwife ranging from an agreed number of appointments throughout your pregnancy to complete continuity of care through pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period. Most private midwives who offer a full package of care will attend your birth at home or within a hospital, although in most cases if you give birth in hospital they are not covered by insurance to provide your clinical care. They can act as a birthing partner and advocate whilst your care is provided by the staff employed by the hospital. Some people opt for NHS care, but pay for extra services such as private scans, blood tests and complementary therapies to enhance their experience.


Your first midwife contact will usually be around 8 weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes this feels like a long wait especially if you find out that you are pregnant soon after you have conceived. Whilst you are waiting, there are plenty of things you can do to look after yourself, promote health and make the most of your pregnancy.

Optimising Your Health

Never has there been a more important time to take charge of your health. Your body is going through some pretty incredible changes and simultaneously growing another human, so it is useful to know how you can promote wellbeing and feel good at the same time.


Nutrition

During pregnancy your baby's development and future health can be directly affected by the things you consume. Avoiding toxins is important to reduce the risk of harm, and consuming the right nutrients helps promote normal growth & development. Taking some pregnancy specific supplements is recommended - especially vitamin D and folic acid. These can help your baby to develop normally and reduce the risk of some abnormalities. Folate is used in our bodies to make new cells, whilst vitamin D promotes a healthy immune system and strong muscles & bones.

Bowl containing a nutritious meal of spinach, tomatoes, onion, sweetcorn, peppers, avocado, kidney beans, cucumber and quinoa

In fact, the best way to ensure you are meeting you nutritional requirements is by eating a healthy diet. Nutrients are much more readily absorbed into the body when consumed in their naturally occurring state in food, rather than the supplementary forms. There are also some important nutrients that are difficult to replicate in supplements, or the quantity found in supplements is not enough to meet your nutritional needs. For this reason, it is important to try and consume whole foods including a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables.


If you are finding it difficult to eat a balanced diet due to pregnancy sickness, then don't panic. It is common to have food cravings, aversions or experience nausea/vomiting in early pregnancy. There are things you can do to help manage these symptoms, but in the meantime it is important to eat something rather than becoming malnourished by eating nothing at all. Take each day as it comes, and consider seeking support from a nutritionist if you would like further advice.


Exercise

Four pregnant women doing stretches whilst sitting on birthing balls during a fitness class

We all know that exercise is an important contributor to our overall health, but there is often a misconception that it should be avoided when pregnant. As a general rule, you can (and should) continue your normal exercise regimes when you get pregnant. Exceptions to this may be high impact sports which may come at risk of trauma/injury, or any exercises which cause you strain or discomfort. It is not recommended that you take up new high impact activity when you are pregnant, instead opt for low impact cardio such as swimming, cycling or walking. You can increase the workout intensity over time if you feel confident to do so, but listen to your body and ask a professional for advice if you are unsure.



Build Your Village

Networking with other parents-to-be can be incredibly valuable. Although you may know people who have had children, going through your pregnancy journey simultaneously can create a support network that is invaluable. From experiencing the different stages of pregnancy together to comparing newborn sleep patterns and night feeds, you will have a common ground and a unique bond.

Two women embracing one another, smiling whilst team mates smile in the background

Consider joining local groups on social media for pregnant or new parents and seek out your local MVP or Maternity voices partnership. These are groups which help to bring together service users (e.g. pregnant/postnatal parents) with healthcare professionals and maternity services. They are not only a fantastic source of information but strive to improve services by ensuring everyone's voice is heard and acknowledged. If you are looking for advice but feel conscious about asking, then platforms such as facebook groups allow you to post anonymously which is especially helpful before you announce your pregnancy.


Educate Yourself

When it comes to pregnancy and birth, knowledge is power. It is really important that you feel able to make informed decisions about your care (there is a whole blog post about this which you can find here) and in order to achieve this you need to know what your options and preferences are. There are loads of resources including books, websites, leaflets, forums and social media which can provide information about different aspects of pregnancy and birth. It is however important to ensure that the information you are accessing is evidence based and accurate. It is worth considering signing up for antenatal classes - this will not only introduce you to other parents to be, but also provide you with information and education to help inform your experience.


So What Do You Do Now That You Are Pregnant?

  • Decide what sort of care you would like in your pregnancy

  • Refer yourself to a healthcare professional or local team

  • Start taking pregnancy supplements

  • Optimise your diet

  • Stay active

  • Join local communities

  • Seek out evidence-based information to inform your care


If you have any questions about early pregnancy, are experiencing unwanted side effects, or interested in antenatal care, feel free to get in touch using the contact form or visit my website - I'm always happy to help.




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