For many women, being pregnant is something to celebrate. For some, pregnancy might come as a complete surprise or shock. Even if you’ve been planning to have a baby, finding out that you’re pregnant can bring some uncertainty about what lies ahead.

Starting your pregnancy care

If you’ve just found out or think that you’re pregnant, see your GP to start your pregnancy care. Your GP will:

  • organise some routine tests, including a blood test
  • check your health
  • talk with you about pregnancy care options
  • refer you to the health professionals you want to care for you or the place where you want to give birth.

Mums can be happier with their birth experience when they have the same person, or group of people, looking after them through pregnancy, labour and birth. This is called ‘continuity of care’. It’s a good idea to talk with your GP about how this might work for you.

You can compare pregnancy care options in our Birth Choices guide. And once you’ve decided, you need to book in early, particularly if you want midwifery continuity of care, care in a birth centre or a homebirth.

Going to your antenatal appointments right from the start means that your doctor or midwife can check how you and your baby are going. This includes following your baby’s growth and watching you both for any health problems or risks.

Antenatal appointments are also a chance to make decisions about things like tests in pregnancy. Some of these appointments and tests need to happen at particular times.

Our Pregnancy section takes you through being pregnant week by week and tracks your baby’s growth. You can also use our Birth Choices interactive tool to find out more about pregnancy health professionals, birth settings, and pregnancy appointments and tests.

Staying healthy in pregnancy

Physical activity in pregnancy
Being physically active while you’re pregnant is good for you and your baby. It can help you be at a healthy weight, keep strong for the birth and lift your mood.

If you’re healthy with an uncomplicated pregnancy, you can probably start or keep going with light to moderate exercise during pregnancy – but check with your midwife or doctor first. Walking or swimming are good options. Aim for around 30 minutes a few times a week.

Keeping your pelvic floor muscles in good shape with pelvic floor exercises will help to prevent urinary problems like incontinence later in pregnancy or after the birth. Pelvic floor exercises can also help with labour and your recovery after birth.

Healthy eating in pregnancy
Healthy eating helps you feel good and gives your baby the nutrients he needs to grow.

Eat:

  • plenty of vegetables, fruit, and wholegrain breads and cereals for a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fibre
  • low-fat dairy food (or alternatives like soy, rice or oat milk products) for calcium, protein and iodine 
  • lean red meat for iron and protein, and oily fish like sardines for omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Try to choose small, healthy snacks that are low in sugar and fat.

You might like to read more about healthy pregnancy for overweight women.

Foods to avoid in pregnancy
For your health and your baby’s health, it’s best to avoid ready-to-eat chilled foods (like coleslaw and other deli salads), soft cheeses and raw fish. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking too much coffee, tea and other drinks with caffeine in them.

Smoking, alcohol and other drugs in pregnancy
If you’re taking prescribed drugs, check with your doctor that these are safe to take during pregnancy.

Your doctor will advise you to stop smoking, drinking alcohol and taking non-prescribed drugs. Try to stay away from people who are smoking.

Getting enough folic acid before pregnancy and for the first three months of pregnancy can reduce your chances of having a baby with spina bifida by up to 70%. You can get folic acid tablets in most supermarkets, chemists and health food shops.

Your body in pregnancy

Your body will go through some big changes in pregnancy.

Your baby bump is likely to ‘pop out’ any time from around 14 weeks. By 19 weeks, you’ll almost certainly be looking pregnant. This happens earlier with second and subsequent babies.

You might experience other changes like:

  • bigger breasts
  • small skin tags underneath your breasts
  • thicker hair and faster growing nails
  • a ‘pregnancy glow’ – or more pimples than before
  • chloasma – brown patches on your face or neck
  • linea nigra – a brown line that shows up on the skin of your belly
  • stretch marks
  • swollen feet.

Morning sickness and other pregnancy health problems

In the first 6-12 weeks of being pregnant, your body makes lots of extra hormones. These hormones can cause nausea and vomiting, often called morning sickness.

Morning sickness is usually at its worst early in the day, but it can happen at any point during the day or night. It usually stops after the first 3-4 months. For some women, it goes on much longer than this

If you get morning sickness, it can help to eat small amounts often. Carbohydrate-rich snacks like crackers, toast, cereal or fruit are ideal.

Being pregnant can bring some other uncomfortable physical symptoms – for example, constipation, headaches and the need to urinate more often. Pregnancy health problems are usually mild, but it’s always a good idea to talk about them with your doctor or midwife.

There are some pregnancy health problems, like pre-eclampsia, that need more urgent medical attention.

Emotions in pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when emotions can change.

Pregnancy hormones can cause some emotional changes, and some ups and downs are normal as you adjust to a major change in your life. You might also be dealing with morning sickness and other uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Often mothers-to-be feel more vulnerable and tired than usual and might need extra support.

Being open and honest about your feelings with people you know and trust can avoid hurt and misunderstanding.

Some emotional changes can be more serious. These changes include feeling sad and not enjoying life the way you used to. If these changes last longer than two weeks and get in the way of daily life, it could be antenatal depression or another problem. Talk with your midwife or doctor about changes like these. 

You could also call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or PANDA on 1300 726 306.

Antenatal classes

Birth, antenatal or prenatal classes – these terms all mean the same thing. They’re classes to help you and your partner get ready for labour, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

Even if you’ve done a lot of research online or talked to other expectant parents, at birth classes you can ask questions, clear up conflicting advice, and get specific information about the place where your baby will be born.

You can read more about birth classes in our Dads Guide to Pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor should also be able to give you more information.

Telling your employer about being pregnant

Think about a good time to share your pregnancy news with your employer. Before you do, it’s worth checking your pregnancy work rights, as well as your agreement or contract to see whether specific requirements apply in your workplace.

By law, you don’t need to notify your employer at a specific time, but you do need to give 10 weeks notice if you plan to take parental leave (maternity leave). 

You and your partner

If you have a partner, it’s a good idea to work on keeping your relationship healthy during pregnancy and to talk about the changes that your baby might bring to your lives. Our Dads Guide to Pregnancy features articles on preparing for changes in your relationship and building your relationship in pregnancy.

Even if you feel like your relationship is strong, putting extra effort into talking openly, working out your roles and sharing expectations is good practice for parenting and staying connected.

This ‘relationship work’ can be everything from deciding on paid work arrangements to talking about who cooks dinner. You can chat about things like your hopes for your new family, and what special family times or ‘rituals’ you’d like to create.

Having sex with your partner might feel different during pregnancy. Some women feel less interested in sex than before, although some find pregnancy increases their sex drive. As your pregnancy advances you might have to adopt different positions. 

Preparing your family

If you have other children, you can prepare children for the new baby by giving them plenty of time to get used to the idea. When, what and how much you tell them will depend on their ages.

It’s common to think about your own parents, the part they played in your life and what you’ll be like as a parent. Pregnancy can bring families closer. Some women find they like to spend more time with their mothers or families. Often this is about sharing the joy of being pregnant and expecting a new member of the extended family.

Your parents and your partner’s parents might like to read more about becoming grandparents.

Preparing for breastfeeding

Health authorities and experts recommend breastfeeding your baby. Breastfeeding is a skill, so it takes time to learn and it doesn’t always come easily. Here are some tips for preparing to breastfeed:

  • Go to breastfeeding classes in pregnancy (ask at your hospital or call your local Australian Breastfeeding Association on 1800 686 268).
  • Call the Australian Breastfeeding Association for information and support.
  • Read up on breastfeeding techniques and breastfeeding positions.
  • Talk to other new mothers who are breastfeeding.
  • Speak with your local child and family health nurse, midwife or doctor if you have any questions or concerns about feeding your baby.

When to get help

There might be times when you need extra help and support to cope with some of the changes happening during your pregnancy. You might find it helpful to speak to a midwife, doctor or counsellor if you’re:

  • having trouble coping with your emotions
  • having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • worried about how you’ll cope after the baby is born
  • having serious problems in your relationship, including family violence.
It’s a good idea to plan some practical and emotional ‘back-up’ for after your baby is born. For example, could extended family or friends cook you a meal, drop in for a visit or give you a call? You don’t have to do everything if others are willing to lend a hand.

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Last updated or reviewed
13-06-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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