If you have just found out that you are pregnant, you may be feeling an array of emotions which is very natural even if your pregnancy was planned. You could be feeling excited, nervous, anxious or fearful. However you are feeling, there are lots of things to prepare for your pregnancy. It is important to make an appointment with your GP, midwife or the Family Planning Clinic as soon as possible for advice and support. They can talk to you about your pregnancy and give you an opportunity to discuss your feelings, explain your options and what to expect.
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If you decide to go ahead with your pregnancy, your GP will ask you where you want to give birth. There are a range of options, and you can find out about what is available in your local area on the NHS Choices website, but your GP should be able to give you some more information and find out what will work best for you. They will then put you in touch with whatever setting you choose, and your care may then be split between the GP and that setting, or you may be referred to a midwife or a team of midwifes who will manage your care from that point onwards.
The level of care and appointments can differ in different health authorities but on the whole your midwife will always be your first point of call unless otherwise discussed. They are there to answer your questions, give you support, reassure you and go through all the aspects of pregnancy with you, including tests, health checks and general pregnancy advice. You will also be given information about ante-natal classes, your due date, and the ante-natal team who will be caring for you, information about the ultrasound scans, birth options and physical health checks too. For more advice about this, you can visit the NHS Choices Pregnancy website.
Emotions during pregnancy
Being pregnant is an individual experience for every mum to be. You may be feeling highs and lows with the added stresses of morning sickness, indigestion, heartburn and much more. It is quite normal to feel happy one day and sad the next and this may feel confusing and add to the stress you are feeling. These conflicting emotions may be made worse if you are busy working, or tired, or if there is strain in your relationship, or if you have other children already. If this is the case, it is important to talk things through with someone close to you, a midwife or you can get in touch with our helpline service for emotional support.
How your baby develops
Feeling the baby grow inside of you and the baby kicking can be a euphoric feeling and there are many websites offering week by week interactive foetal development advice. There are websites where you can sign up to weekly newsletter and they can tell you what to expect through the three trimesters and help you visualise how your baby might be developing. For more information, please visit Bounty or the NHS website. You can also download apps to your mobile phone which give you daily or weekly updates and tips for your pregnancy, including information about the development of your baby. Both NCT and Baby centre have popular apps.
Pregnancy scans and checks
You will be offered ultrasound scans as part of the pregnancy care offered by the medical professionals and they are normally around 12 weeks and 20 weeks. You may be offered more frequent scans if you have any additional needs. Your midwife or doctor should explain why this is necessary and how often you can expect to be asked to go for a scan.
An ultrasound scan sends high-frequency sound waves through your uterus (womb). These bounce off your baby and the echoes are turned into an image on a screen that shows your baby's position and movements. Hard tissues, such as bone, reflect the biggest echoes and are white in the image, and soft tissues are grey. Fluids, such as the amniotic fluid that your baby lies in, appear black because the echoes go through them. Your sonographer (the person performing the scan) will look at these shades to interpret the images. Most parents look forward to their scan because it gives them a first glimpse of their baby. You should be able to have a scan picture to take away with you although there may be a charge for this.
If you are wondering about the gender of your child, normally this information can be given out at the 20-week scan. However, it is not always possible depending on the position of the baby, hospital policy or other factors.
During your third trimester you will be advised to think about how you want the birth of your child to go and there will be plenty of information available to you about all the options you have. Your birth plan can be as detailed as you like, although bear in mind that busy health professionals may not have time to read anything too long. In it you can think about your preferences for pain relief, preferences for what you want to happen to the baby immediately after the birth, such as whether you want the baby cleaned before it is given to you, how you want your birth partner to be involved and any special requests. Your midwife can discuss these options more fully and there will be plenty of decisions to make.
You may find it helpful to discuss this with friends and family too so that you can find out what their experiences were. Some parents-to-be opt for home births, whereas some would rather be in the hospital environment. Some local areas have birth centres run by midwives that are either situated in or near a hospital and could be a good alternative for some women. Water births are very popular too and can be effective at reducing discomfort. Water births are available in birth centres and pools can be hired for use in your own home. Again, pain relief choices vary depending on where you give birth so it is important to talk to your midwife about what is right for you and what sort of birth you are planning. For more information visit the NHS website about labour and birth. You can also visit the NCT website for more detailed information about birth plans.
You will also be encouraged to think about who you want your birth partner to be. You can have up to two people present with you, such as a relative, a friend, your partner, the baby’s father, or whoever you think could best support you. If you do not have anyone you feel can support you, many hospitals have schemes where trained volunteers act as birth partners and stay with you and support you during your labour. Your GP or midwife should be able to give you some more information about whether this is possible in your area.
Getting ready for the baby to arrive
There is so much to plan when you are pregnant such as names for your child, what baby equipment you will need, maternity, paternity and work issues, etc. These issues can be quite stressful and the planning may feel overwhelming at times, as there seem to be endless choices and decisions. Your baby needs very little other than love and care and a few basics, but there are endless products targeted at parents to be and the pressure to buy expensive gadgets can be intense. Seek advice from other parents who have been in your position, and if you don’t have family and friends you can ask then internet forums can be a great place to go to get handy tips on how to prepare for your baby without spending a fortune or wasting money.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed you can always contact Family Lives, and for specific advice on maternity or paternity and work issues Working Families runs a helpline and web services. Their website also has useful tools to help you figure out how your pregnancy will impact on your benefits entitlements and your employment.
Universal Credit is a new benefit that has replaced six existing benefits with a single monthly payment into your account. Universal Credit will help you to be better off in work, start a new job or work more hours. Read more information about universal credit.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us via our live chat service, email us at email@example.com or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.