Woman learning she is pregnant

What to do when you find out you’re pregnant

Congratulations – you’re pregnant! Finding out you are pregnant can bring on a lot of emotions all at once – excitement, joy, fear, overwhelm. Once you have a moment to let the good news soak in, you may be thinking, “Now what do I do?”. There are a few important things to consider once you determine you’re creating a little life inside you. In this article, I want to discuss the first few steps you should take after finding out you’re pregnant.

Contact your family doctor or a midwife as soon as possible 

Depending on the practitioner, they may have you do blood work to test a hormone called beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (aka. beta-hCG) to confirm your pregnancy. The thing is, at home pregnancy tests are so accurate these days, that a positive almost always means a positive, so they may not rush you off to a lab until after your prenatal visit. An initial prenatal visit is typically done around 6-8 weeks of pregnancy*. In this visit, expect to have some screening bloodwork done, including beta-hCG, you will discuss having your first dating ultrasound done, they will check your blood pressure and likely do a urine test. It is very important to have these screening tests done early to catch any issues that may be present. 

This is also the time to determine if you’d like to work with an OB or a midwife to support your pregnancy. Start making phone calls now if you’d like to find a midwife, as they can be in high demand! 

*Note: pregnancy is calculated from the first day of your last menstrual period. By the time you find out you are pregnant, you are usually already 4 weeks pregnant!

Start a high-quality prenatal vitamin

It is critical to start taking a prenatal vitamin as soon as you find out you are pregnant since folic acid is needed in the early days of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. All of my female patients of reproductive age are typically taking a prenatal vitamin months before they ever conceive since many of the nutrients found in a prenatal vitamin are used to optimize fertility and egg quality as well. It is important to find a prenatal vitamin that contains the active form of folic acid called L-methylfolate or methyltetrahydrofolate. 

Some other key supplements to consider in pregnancy include vitamin D, phosphatidylcholine, omega-3 fatty acids (mainly DHA), and probiotics. All supplements are not created equally and you should always speak to your healthcare provider before starting any of these, especially in pregnancy.

Quit smoking ASAP, stop drinking, and ditch the cannabis

Smoking is not safe in pregnancy, including the use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products containing nicotine. If you smoke in pregnancy, or if your partner smokes, there is an increased risk of premature babies, having a baby with a low birth weight and birth defects of the mouth and lips. Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. 

Maybe it is true that “when your mom was pregnant she had a glass of wine a week” and you turned out just fine. However, alcohol is a reproductive toxin and there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. The risks of alcohol use in pregnancy are greater the more you consume, but alcohol in pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birthweight. 

Further research is needed on how marijuana can impact pregnant women and developing babies, however, I advise against all cannabis use in pregnancy due to the potential harm.

Reduce your caffeine intake

My general rule on coffee intake in pregnancy is “one and done”. Most of the research shows that up to 200-300mg of caffeine per day in pregnancy has no adverse health impacts on mom or baby. Now, this recommendation will depend on the woman. If you’ve had a miscarriage in the past, you may want to be more cautious about your caffeine intake. And remember that this is a cumulative amount of caffeine – including coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks.

Evaluate your nutrition and be cautious about certain foods

First of all, you are not “eating for two”… in terms of calories anyway. But you are eating to support the health of two, and this is important. Optimal nutrition in pregnancy is critical to provide you and your growing baby with all of the necessary nutrients to thrive. However, this can pose a challenge in the first trimester when nausea is at an all-time high.

  • In the early weeks, before your nausea hits, do your best to eat plenty of fresh vegetables, high-quality proteins, and good fats. Be mindful of your food choices now, because soon your body may become very picky! 
  • Throughout pregnancy include high-quality protein at every meal – eggs, high-fat dairy, meat, fatty fish (the ones low in mercury ), and for some women a protein powder becomes a staple to ensure adequate intake. 
  • I recommend against intermittent fasting in pregnancy, especially in the early weeks when your body is quickly adapting to a new state. It is so critical in pregnancy to listen to your body. When you are hungry, eat (even if it is something small). 
  • Soon, all you may be craving is carbohydrates, and carbs may be all you can stomach. Choose your carbohydrates wisely – read labels, avoid added sugars, and limit processed foods as much as possible. 
  • If you end up experiencing extreme nausea that limits you from eating a healthy diet, nutritional supplements may become even more important for you. Speak to your healthcare provider. 
  • Foods to Avoid: 
    • Mold-ripened soft cheeses, blue cheese, and any unpasteurized cheeses (it usually says on the label if it is pasteurized) 
    • Deli meats – unless they are cooked 
    • Raw or undercooked meat
    • Tuna and other high mercury fish
    • All raw seafood

Listen to your body

Pregnancy may be the most important time to really listen to your body, especially if you like to ignore your body’s cues sometimes. When it comes to activity and rest, there may need to be some modifications made.

  • If you’ve been active prior to pregnancy, there is no reason to stop change your activity. In the early first trimester, no specific modifications need to be made to your exercise, unless something doesn’t feel right. You may feel easily short of breath, more fatigued during exercise, or not feel up to working out at all – pay attention and back-off if needed. But if you feel good, keep at it, mama. Once your body starts to change later on in pregnancy, modifications will become more necessary. Exercise in pregnancy has many, many benefits for you and baby!
  • Early pregnancy can come with a pretty real dose of fatigue. Your body is experiencing significant changes and this may make you feel tired overall. Take some more time to rest if that is what your body is asking for. The fatigue will not last forever, but while it is present, go easy on yourself.

There is a lot to learn in pregnancy and the information available can be overwhelming. If you start with these simple steps as soon as you find out you are pregnant, you can rest assured that you are covering the bases, and then you can take some time to think about what you want your pregnancy to look like. How active will you be? Are there certain things you’d like to plan or do while pregnant? How will you document your pregnancy? What books will you read? I promise you, there will be a million questions…

Take it one day at a time, mama, and enjoy every minute of it because it goes quickly! 

To a healthy and happy pregnancy, 

Dr. Bronwyn

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WRITTEN BY:

Dr. Bronwyn is a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Ontario with a clinical focus in Women's Health. She works with women transitioning off the oral contraceptive pill and those with specific fertility concerns, to reach a state of hormonal balance or in preparation for a healthy pregnancy. Dr. Bronwyn is passionate about empowering women to reclaim their hormonal health, to enable a full and vibrant life.

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