I'm convinced that never in my life have I experienced a wider range of emotions than I did when beginning our family--from excitement to anxiety to fear to joy and back to anxiety. But regardless of how I felt at any given moment, I found that I was constantly filled with questions, especially in those first few weeks of pregnancy.
I don't think this is exclusive to my experience. When making a transition as HUGE as becoming a mother, it's not unusual to feel like you're constantly pulling out your phone to search yet another question on google.
It's scary to make such a big change, and there are so many unknowns. So if you're currently trying to get pregnant or are in your early weeks of pregnancy, here's a compilation of some of the most frequently asked questions to help you feel a bit more prepped for the big day!
Do I have to wait until I miss my period to take a pregnancy test?
When you first start trying to get pregnant, it can be so hard to wait to take a pregnancy test! And the good news is, you don't necessarily have to wait until you miss your period to take a test! However, if you take a test too soon, you may get a negative pregnancy test even if you are pregnant.
This is because pregnancy tests detect HCG, a hormone that increases within your body in the first few weeks of pregnancy. If your body hasn't had enough time to build up detectable levels, the result will be negative.
Although at home tests will vary, you CAN get a positive result as early as 10 days after conception. It doesn't matter what time of day you test, but if you're still early on, it's recommended to take the test first thing in the morning when your urine is more concentrated. If you get a negative test though, don't worry quite yet. Just wait a few more days and test again.
*Note: For non-digital pregnancy tests where you wait for a second line to appear, it's important to look at the result within the time listed on the instructions. If the second line doesn't appear within the timeframe, the test result can be considered negative. If you look at a test after that timeframe, the pregnancy test is invalid. You may see a second line appear, but this is not a result of your HCG levels. This is known as an evap line.
How do I calculate my due date?
As soon as you get that positive pregnancy test, figuring out the due date will likely be the first thing you do! It's pretty simple to figure out the month you should expect your little one (just count nine months from the month you conceived) but figuring out a more accurate date can be a bit more challenging!
Thanks to obstetrician Franz Naegele, you can calculate this fairly simply! This technique has been used for centuries and proves to be pretty accurate!
First figure out what the first day of your last menstrual period was. I always keep track of my menstrual periods in an app on my phone when I'm trying to get pregnant. That way I can easily look back to see.
Next, take 3 months off of that date. For example, if the first day of your last menstrual period was December 2nd of 2022, you'd be at September 2nd, 2022.
Finally, add one year and 7 days to that. This would give you a due date of September 9th, 2023!
Keep in mind this is just a general rule! Depending on the average length of your cycle, the date may move a couple days in either direction.
You can also use an online due date calculator! Online calculators are great because many of them allow you to enter in your average cycle length for a more accurate prediction, and some allow you to go off of your conception date if you happen to know it.
If you can't remember the first day of your last period or are unsure if you calculated correctly, don't worry! Your doctor can perform an ultrasound to give a more accurate date.
Whatever the due date prediction, it's best to remember that due dates are never an exact science. Every woman's body is different and so is every baby, so gestation time can vary even though 40 weeks is expected.
How long should I wait before I tell my friends and family I'm pregnant?
A few weeks into my sister's first pregnancy, she reached out to me asking when she should tell people she's expecting. I told her that every person is different, and everyone has different levels of comfort for sharing that information.
For those that may have experienced miscarriage in the past, waiting until the second trimester can give some peace of mind. Many people don't want to tell everyone about their pregnancy early on because if they were to have a miscarriage, they wouldn't want to have to share the difficult news. After the first trimester ends, however, the risk of miscarriage drops substantially. This is why many women use 12 weeks as their general rule.
In my own experience, I figured that if it was a person I'd want to talk to if I did have a miscarriage, then I felt comfortable enough to share my pregnancy news with them! Otherwise, I waited until the second trimester.
There's NO definitive rule on what you can or cannot do though! If you want to tell everyone right away, that is perfect! Just do what you feel comfortable with and don't feel like you have to do something just because that's what other people do.
What symptoms should I expect in the first trimester?
Due to the amount of changes that are happening within those first few weeks and months, our bodies are sure to react in a variety of crazy ways! Many women experience fatigue, cravings AND aversions, breast tenderness, cramping, and nausea during the first trimester!
Although these are all extremely common, it's so important to remember that pregnancy symptoms WILL differ from person to person! Some women start to worry if they're not having the "typical" first trimester experience. I remember worrying that I didn't have nausea with one of my pregnancies, and feared that the lack of it meant I would miscarry! Although almost all women will experience symptoms of some sort, the lack thereof does not automatically mean there's a problem.
If you're anxious or concerned about any of your symptoms or if you're not having any at all, reach out to your healthcare provider for advice!
Want to read more about early pregnancy symptoms? Check out our blog post, "What Are the Early Signs of Pregnancy?"
When can I find out the gender of my baby?
There's something about finding out our baby's gender that just makes it all that much more real! Some like to find out as soon as possible, while some like to wait until birth! If you're one of the former individuals, you're probably wondering how soon you can find out the gender! If this is the case, there are a few options for finding out gender.
10 weeks with noninvasive prenatal genetic testing
One of the earliest methods, and the most accurate, is to have noninvasive prenatal genetic testing (NIPT) performed by your doctor. The provider will take a sample of your blood, which contains small bits of DNA. This can be used to determine the likelihood of your baby having genetic abnormalities, but it can also be used to look at the child's gender. This testing can be done as early as 10 weeks, but some doctors may recommend you wait until 12 to 14 weeks to have it done.
These tests can be expensive though, and many insurances will not cover them since they're often not deemed medically necessary. So if you don't want to spend the money, you may want to opt for one of the alternatives.
8 weeks with an at-home gender test
Another method is to do an at-home gender test, such as the SneakPeak test! With these tests, you prick your own finger and send the sample into their facility. They will then examine the blood to determine the gender of your baby.
These kits cost between $80 and $100 depending on which kit you order and can provide a result as early as 8 weeks. These are a bit different from the standard NIPT testing, as they do not provide information on genetic abnormalities and it's more likely for the sample to become contaminated.
There are other at home tests that use urine, but they are often considered inaccurate.
20 weeks with anatomy scan
The most common time to find out the gender of the baby is at the 20 week anatomy scan where your ultrasound tech will look over your baby's entire body to make sure he is growing healthy and strong! During the scan, your tech can check to see the sex of the baby.
On occasion, the ultrasound tech will be unable to see the gender because of the way your baby is positioned. If this is the case, you may not be able to find out during your scan.
This method is not always 100% accurate as well, as it depends fully on what the ultrasound tech sees as opposed to the physical DNA like in the NIPT. Some techs also may not be as experienced, and mistakes can be made. However, if you have an experienced tech, you can trust that what they see is what you're having.
What foods or drinks do I need to avoid during pregnancy?
Much of what we consume goes to our placenta, which then goes to our babies! So we need to be careful! Some foods commonly harbor harmful viruses or bacteria while some contain chemicals that can delay or damage your baby's developing body.
Here is a general guide of things you should avoid completely or at least be more cautious of during pregnancy:
- Alcohol (This should be COMPLETELY avoided)
- Coffee (Some providers say this is okay in small amounts, but just be cautious about the amount of caffeine you consume, and ask your doctor if you're unsure.)
- Deli meats or other processed meat
- Raw meat
- Organ meat
- Raw fish
- Fish high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, tuna, marlin, king mackerel, etc.
- Raw eggs
- Soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, chevre, and blue cheese varieties such as Danish blue or gorgonzola
- Unpasteurized milk or juices
- Unwashed fruits and veggies
- Uncooked sprouts
What medications can't I have while pregnant?
If you've ever looked at the directions on a medication or supplement, you've probably noticed the bold lettering urging you to check with your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding. In some cases, it may flat out tell you not to take if pregnant.
This is because some medications can delay development, cause birth defects, or even increase you're likelihood of miscarrying! So be so vigilant on what you're consuming.
It can be so easy to just take medications without thinking, especially if we are used to taking them on a regular basis (such as ibuprofen when we have a headache). But even things that seem harmless can pose a huge threat to our infant or his development.
Here are some commonly used medications to be aware of:
- Ibuprofen (also known as Motrin, Advil), Aleve, and other NSAIDs
- Acne medications (also known as Accutane, Isotretinoin, Absorica, Amnesteem, Claravis, Myorisan, Zenatane)
- Fungal medications
- Decongestants such as Sudafed, DayQuil, Claritin-D (Some doctors say these are ok, but be cautious before taking them and avoid multi-symptom or sustained action varieties)
- Nyquil (as it has a high alcohol content)
- Illegal drugs such as cocaine, crack, heroin, marijuana, etc
This is not an all-inclusive list, so if you have any questions about what you can or cannot take, ask your doctor or a pharmacist for help.
What medications CAN I take during pregnancy?
Nothing is ever 100% safe, so always consult a doctor before taking anything. But in general, the following common medications have not been found to pose any serious risks.
- Acetominophen or Tylenol (for headaches/pain)
- Antacids, such as Tums, Pepsid, Zantac (for heartburn)
- Sleep aid medications (such as Unisom, Tylenol PM, Sominex and Nytol)
- Zyrtec, benadryl (for allergies)
- Rash creams such as hydrocortisone
- Cough drops
- Vicks Vapor Rub (for colds)
- Deet insect repellant
- Neosporin (for cuts)
- Witch hazel (for hemorrhoids)
- Vitamin B6 supplement (for nausea)
- MiraLAX, Colace, Citrucel, etc (for constipation)
Some doctors will recommend not taking some of these during the first trimester, so again, be vigilant before taking anything and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions at all!
For a bigger list of medications you can take for a variety of symptoms or ailments, visit clevelandclinic.org
Is there anything else I need to avoid when pregnant?
We all pretty much understand that we shouldn't consume certain things when pregnant, as it can effect our baby. But there are additional things you should be aware of during pregnancy that can pose a risk!
Kitty litter: A harmful bacteria called Toxoplasma gondii is often found in cat poop as well as soil. It causes an infection known as Toxoplasmosis, which can cause fetal blindness and brain damage as well as miscarriage. So if you have a cat, wash your hands after petting him and do not change his litter; have someone else do this for you!
Chemicals: Many cleaning products contain chemicals that can be harmful to your developing baby. So wear thick gloves when you have to clean with harsh chemicals, find more natural alternatives, or just have your spouse do the deep cleaning, wink wink! In addition, try to avoid painting your walls or being in an enclosed room when painting is happening, as the fumes from the paint can be harmful.
Hot tubs or ultra-hot baths: I love a good hot bath, but it's best to avoid them during pregnancy. Although not a ton is known of the effects, providers advise against it as an extreme and rapid increase in your temperature could be harmful to a fetus's development.
What prenatal vitamin should I take? When should I start taking a prenatal vitamin?
Our babies need lots of nutrients in order to develop properly. That's why taking a prenatal vitamin or supplement is so important. Unfortunately, not all prenatal vitamins are created equally. Some have WAY beyond the daily amount we need of a certain vitamin or mineral, and some don't have enough.
In general, look for something that contains folic acid and iron, as these are ESSENTIAL for both our baby's health and our own! Folic acid helps prevent neurological birth defects, as it helps with brain and spine development. Iron is necessary for your body to produce enough blood cells, which will then carry oxygen to your baby.
Iodine and calcium are other good things to look for in a prenatal. Iodine cannot be produced by our bodies, so it must be taken in through food or supplements. Not only can iodine deficiency cause thyroid problems, but it can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth as well. Calcium will ensure you don't lose bone density during pregnancy.
Some may assume they're getting enough of these vitamins from their food, especially if they feel they have a pretty well-rounded and healthy diet. Even in the healthiest diets though, this often isn't enough.
When browsing prenatals, look for a supplement that contains the following:
- 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid
- 400 IU of vitamin D
- 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 70 mg of vitamin C
- 3 mg of thiamine
- 2 mg of riboflavin
- 20 mg of niacin
- 6 mcg of vitamin B12
- 10 mg of vitamin E
- 15 mg of zinc
- 17 mg of iron
- 150 micrograms of iodine
It's best to start taking a prenatal at least a month before conceiving. This will ensure you have enough folic acid built up for proper brain and spine development, as the nervous system is one of the first systems to develop in your baby.
Your doctor may also prescribe a specific prenatal or recommend taking additional supplements if your blood tests show unusually low levels in a specific area.
If you have any questions about prenatals, reach out to your obstetrician or midwife.
You can also read more about prenatal vitamins here!
Can I exercise when I'm pregnant?
Yes! Exercising is a great way to stay healthy and strong and can even help prep your body for childbirth! Many doctors recommend light exercise, such as light stretching, walking, and swimming because they are gentle on your body.
You want to avoid anything that may be too intense or that you're not familiar with, as this could lead to harm. During pregnancy, your body is more prone to injury because of the release of the hormone relaxin. This hormone causes your joints and muscles to relax. As a result, your joints may not be as steady, and you can fall more easily.
In general though, if you were doing an exercise before pregnancy just fine, you can probably continue doing it! Just ALWAYS discuss it with your provider first!
Check out this article on our blog, "Best Exercises for You and Baby During Pregnancy", if you need some ideas!
When should I make my first doctors appointment? Is it normal for my clinic not to see me until the start of the second trimester?
Some providers will want to see you as soon as possible, while some clinics will wait until you are 12 weeks along and entering your second trimester.
Will I get an ultrasound in my first trimester?
If having several ultrasounds is important to you, ask your potential obstetrician or midwife what their policy is before choosing them as your provider.
What all do I need to be doing when I find out I'm pregnant?If you're like me, you're going to want to do all the things once you find out you're pregnant! Although you don't have to do all of these things in the first trimester, it never hurts to get started on these things now!
- Start taking a prenatal if you're not already
- Choose your healthcare provider
- Inform your insurance of your pregnancy (Some insurances require this, while others don't. Either way, some companies provide pregnant women with additional free benefits, so it doesn't hurt to reach out!)
- Look into childbirth education classes in your area
- Start reading about and practicing relaxation and coping techniques you'd like to use during delivery
- Find a doula
- Begin putting together your baby registry
- Continue to exercise
- Eat nutritious foods
- Journal (I LOVE my childhood history journal from Promptly Journals! It has a dedicated spot to record everything about each trimester of pregnancy so that I can look back and remember!)
Whether this is your first pregnancy or your fourth, it's normal to feel like you don't have a clue what's going on. Just take it one day and one step at a time, and before you know it, that sweet baby will be in your arms! For a complete guide to your pregnancy from conception to birth, check out our post, Your Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy!