Pregnancy care: getting started
If you’ve just found out or think that you’re pregnant, see your GP straight away to start your pregnancy care. Your GP will:
- confirm that you’re pregnant
- organise 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 you want to give birth.
It’s a good idea to talk with your GP about ‘continuity of care’. This is when the same person, or group of people, looks after you through pregnancy, labour and birth. Women tend to be happier with their pregnancy care when they have continuity of care.
You can compare pregnancy care options in our Birth Choices guide. And once you’ve decided on pregnancy care, you need to book in early.
It’s important to go to your antenatal appointments right from the start, so 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 tracker takes you through being pregnant week by week and tracks your baby’s growth. You can also use Birth Choices to find out more about pregnancy health professionals, birth settings, and pregnancy appointments and tests.
Staying healthy and well 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 birth, and reduce stress.
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. Brisk walking or swimming are good options. Aim for around 30 minutes, for most days of the week.
Daily pelvic floor exercises will help to prevent urinary problems like incontinence later in pregnancy or after birth. Pelvic floor exercises might also help with your labour and recovery after birth.
Sleep in pregnancy
The safest sleeping position for pregnancy is on your side, because this position reduces the risk of stillbirth. This is especially important in the third trimester.
It’s best to sleep on your left side when you can. Sleeping on your left side can increase the flow of blood and nutrients to your baby.
To sleep comfortably on your side, try putting a pillow between your legs and another behind your back. This can ease and prevent back pain.
It’s OK if you wake up during the night on your back. Just roll over to sleep on your side.
Healthy eating in pregnancy
Healthy eating helps you feel good and gives your baby the nutrients he needs to grow.
- 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, raw eggs and raw seafood.
It’s also good to avoid drinking too much coffee and tea, and too many energy drinks and other drinks with caffeine.
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.
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.
You might experience other changes like:
- bigger or tender 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.
If you have a mole or lesion that changes colour or shape, it’s important to ask your doctor about it.
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.
If you’re experiencing nausea and vomiting that doesn’t stop or go away, and you can’t eat and drink without vomiting, call your doctor, midwife or maternity hospital.
Emotions in pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones can cause emotional changes.
Some ups and downs are normal as you adjust to pregnancy. You have a lot to deal with, including morning sickness, fatigue and other uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms.
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 anxiety or antenatal depression. Talk to your midwife or doctor, or call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or PANDA on 1300 726 306.
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 parents-to-be, birth classes are great for asking questions, clearing up conflicting advice, and getting specific information about the place where your baby will be born.
Your midwife or doctor can give you more information about birth classes.
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).
Your relationship with your partner during pregnancy
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.
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.
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 try different positions.
Preparing your family for a new baby
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 good if your other children and close family members are up to date with their immunisations before meeting the baby, including the whooping cough immunisation.
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 about classes at your hospital or call the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) on 1800 686 268.
- For any questions or concerns about feeding your baby, call an ABA counsellor on 1800 686 268 or speak with your local child and family health nurse, midwife or doctor.
- Read up on breastfeeding techniques and breastfeeding positions.
- Talk to other new mothers who are breastfeeding.
When to get help during pregnancy
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.
If you’re experiencing family violence, speak to your GP or midwife, or call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
It’s a good idea to plan 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? People are usually happy to help, and many appreciate being asked.