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.
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.
Staying healthy and well in pregnancy: you and your baby
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, 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 can 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. Sleeping on your side can also increase the flow of blood and nutrients to your baby. This is especially important in the third trimester.
You can sleep on either side. It’s OK if you wake up during the night on your back. Just roll over on to your side before you settle back to sleep.
Healthy eating in pregnancy
Healthy eating helps you feel good and stay healthy. It also gives your baby nutrients for growth.
- 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
- small, healthy snacks that are low in sugar and fat.
Getting enough folic acid before pregnancy and for the first 3 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.
Foods and drinks to avoid or limit in pregnancy
- fish high in mercury, ready-to-eat chilled foods, soft cheeses, raw eggs and raw seafood
- double-shot espresso and energy drinks.
- caffeine to no more than 1 espresso, 2 instant coffees, 4 cups of tea or 4 cans of cola a day.
- sugary and fatty foods.
Smoking, alcohol and other drugs, and medicines
Don’t smoke or vape in pregnancy. Stay away from other people when they smoke or vape so you don’t breathe their second-hand smoke or vapour. If you smoke or vape, get help to quit by calling Quitline on 137 848.
Don’t drink alcohol in pregnancy. Alcohol crosses the placenta and can lead to serious health problems in babies.
Check with your doctor or midwife that any medicines or drugs you’re taking are safe for your baby. This includes prescribed medicines, vitamin or herbal supplements, and medicines from chemists and supermarkets.
Don’t use recreational or illicit medicines or drugs. If you do use these, tell your doctor or midwife early in pregnancy and ask for help to quit.
Daily health and hygiene
Looking after your teeth before and during pregnancy is important because tooth decay and gum disease can increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight and early childhood dental decay.
You can look after your teeth by drinking tap water every day, brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day using a soft toothbrush, and using dental floss or interdental brushes every day. And it’s good to see your dentist at least once a year.
Washing your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet and before preparing food, is part of good hygiene. It can help to protect you from illness and infection.
Immunisation protects you during pregnancy and also protects your baby. Health professionals recommend the following:
- Influenza and COVID-19 immunisation – these immunisations, including boosters, are free and can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
- Whooping cough immunisation – this is free for pregnant women from 20 weeks of pregnancy and recommended for pregnant women who are 20-32 weeks pregnant.
Your doctor, midwife or immunisation provider can tell you more about immunisation during pregnancy.
Wear a seatbelt in the car. The seat belt should be positioned with one strap above your bump and the other below your bump.
It’s important to get to know your baby’s unique movement pattern during pregnancy. If you can feel strong movements that follow your baby’s pattern, your baby is probably healthy and safe. If you notice a change in your baby’s movement pattern, or you’re not sure whether your baby is moving, call your midwife, doctor or local maternity hospital immediately.
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, many women look pregnant. This happens earlier with second and subsequent babies.
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 a lot 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.
If you’re experiencing nausea and vomiting that doesn’t stop or go away, and you can’t eat or drink without vomiting, call your doctor, midwife or maternity hospital.
Emotions in pregnancy
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 2 weeks and get in the way of daily life, it could be antenatal 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.
Antenatal, prenatal, birth or childbirth preparation 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, antenatal 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 antenatal 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 that 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 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 to find one that’s comfortable for you both.
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 until at least 12 months. Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time, practice and patience to learn.
Here are tips for preparing to breastfeed:
- Go to breastfeeding classes in pregnancy. You might be able to do classes at your hospital or with your local Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) group.
- Read up on breastfeeding techniques and breastfeeding positions.
- Talk to other new mothers who are breastfeeding.
- Speak to your midwife, child and family health nurse or GP if you have questions or concerns about feeding your baby.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) can support you with breastfeeding. You can phone the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 to speak with an ABA counsellor or use the ABA LiveChat. Local ABA groups can be a great source of support too.
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 the National Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Counselling Service (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.