Did you take a pregnancy test and see those little lines come back positive? Congratulations! Whether you were planning to become pregnant or if it took you completely by surprise, this is still a shocking and joyful discovery.
You may have many thoughts and questions going through your mind, even if this is not your first pregnancy. For first time moms, though, where do you even begin? Follow this guide to a healthy pregnancy to start on the right track!
Find Out Your Due Date
If you have been tracking your menstrual cycle, and especially if you were tracking for fertility windows, you should be able to estimate your due date from home using an app or website with a due date calculator. You may even be able to identify the date of conception! Of course, you will need your doctor to confirm how far along you are to be sure, but home estimation can help give you more information before your first doctor’s appointment.
To manually calculate your due date, add 290 days (which is 40 weeks) to the first day of your last menstrual period. If your cycle is not the average 28 day period, this estimation may be a little off. This estimation includes the first two weeks of your cycle, which would be your period and ovulation window, meaning you weren’t pregnant at this time.
Counting from the first day of the menstrual cycle is done because many don’t know the exact day they conceived, and cycle lengths vary. So this is an easy way to standardize and relay information about the number of weeks you are pregnant. If you were to deliver on your due date, which is 40 weeks later, your baby is really only 38 weeks old.
If all this counting is not for you, try entering your information in a pregnancy tracker resource like one of these:
Make Your First Prenatal Appointment
If you were not already undergoing fertility treatments, your first prenatal care visit is generally at 8 weeks or later from the first day of your last menstrual period. To choose your Ob/Gyn first, look at your insurance to check if they are in your network. If you are already using your health insurance to see Dr. Jeffrey Lodge, MD at Cool Springs Obstetrics and Gynecology in Brentwood, TN, then this step is easy!
Your doctor will also have access to different hospitals, and this will can determine where you deliver. If you choose a hospital that your doctor doesn’t deliver at, they won’t be the doctor helping with your delivery. To many women, it is important to have their doctor see them through the entire pregnancy journey, so keep this in mind.
Your first visit will be the longest. The doctor will need to know vital dates like the date of your last menstrual cycle, information about previous births, miscarriages, or abortions, and other health information. They will also take preform a checkup to check your blood pressure, weight, and height, along with a breast and cervical exam.
Depending on how far along you are or if you have concerns or complications, the healthcare provider may also perform an ultrasound. An ultrasound can confirm how far along you are or check for health issues that could be causing symptoms like bleeding or cramping. (Don’t let this last sentence scare you! Light bleeding and cramping are often common symptoms experienced in early pregnancy.)
Along with a physical check, your doctor will send out cultures from your pap smear and draw blood for testing. These laboratory blood tests will screen things like:
- Hemoglobin/ hematocrit
- Rh Factor and blood type (if Rh negative, rescreen at 26-28 weeks)
- Rubella screen
- Varicella or history of chickenpox, rubella, and hepatitis vaccine
- Cystic Fibrosis screen
- Hepatitis B surface antigen
- Tay Sach’s screen
- Sickle Cell prep screen
- HIV test
- Hemoglobin levels
- Hematocrit levels
What Symptoms You Might Be Feeling
Some women begin feeling pregnancy symptoms even before an at-home pregnancy test can confirm it. Many of these symptoms are similar, and even the same as the ones you get before your period, making it very hard to tell the difference between PMS and being pregnant.
- Missed Period: This is usually the first noticed symptom and the most obvious one.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired? In early pregnancy, vast amounts of energy are dedicated to forming the placenta.
- Smell sensitivity: Can you smell a pickle from 2 rooms away? A heightened sense of smell is common.
- Morning Sickness: This can hit at any time of the day, so the name is misleading. Increased progesterone, estrogen and hCG can make you queasy.
- Food Aversions: This crops up in the first trimester, making even your favorite foods repulsive. The extra hormones are to blame, but it should pass by the second trimester.
- Mood Swings: This might have happened every month, but the newly increasing hormones can make your moods go even more haywire.
- Tender Breasts: Your body is preparing to make milk, and with this comes breasts that are sore and swollen.
- Darkening Areolas: Hormones may make your nipples darker, and they may also become bumpy as they start producing lubricating oils.
- Frequent Urination: As early as 2 weeks after conception, you may need to pee a lot more. Increased blood flow helping kidneys remove waste faster, is to blame.
- Bloating: The hormone progesterone is to blame again. It slows down digestion, which can also cause constipation.
- Raised Basal Body Temperature: If you were already tracking your BBT you would notice your elevated temperature after ovulation doesn’t fall.
- Bleeding: Up to 30% of new moms may experience this. While it seems scary, it doesn’t mean something bad has happened.
There are so many changes happening in your body during pregnancy; it can be hard to know what is normal. Beginning to take precautions as soon as you realize you are pregnant can ensure your baby is getting the right care from the start. Talk to your doctor soon after a positive home pregnancy test. Dr. Lodge has experience helping pregnant women with existing health problems in all stages of pregnancy. Call 615-690-660 to schedule an appointment. Our doctors and staff would be honored to walk with you through this journey to motherhood.