Approved by the What’s Up Moms Medical Advisory Board
So you got a positive pregnancy test! Congrats! Are you freaking out yet?! You might be freaking out. And that’s perfectly normal. You weren’t pregnant yesterday (well, you were, but you didn’t know it), and today you have a whole other life forming INSIDE YOUR BODY. While it may only be the size of a poppy seed at this point, it’s still a huge responsibility.
Luckily, you have a doctor to give you all the answers you could possibly — JUST KIDDING! You may not even have a doctor yet, and even if you do, they likely won’t see you for at least another four weeks. But don’t worry, we’ll help you get your head around some dos and don’ts to get you through to that first prenatal appointment.
First, a little context:
A Positive Pregnancy Test — What It Means
At-home pregnancy tests boast up to 99% accuracy. This, of course, can depend on a number of factors, including when you take the test, what test you use, and whether you followed the instructions.
All store-bought tests do the same thing, which is to check your urine for the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, but everyone calls it HCG). Shortly after implantation, your body begins to produce HCG, and the the further along you are, the more of this hormone will be present, and the more likely it is that you’ll get a positive test. This is why a false negative is much more likely than a false positive — especially if you test too early. (And don’t worry, we’ve ALL tested way before the box says we should.)
A Positive Pregnancy Test — What It Doesn’t Mean
Not to be a bunch of Debbie Downers here — after all, this is an exciting time and we’re virtually clinking your sparkling grape juice glass! — but just keep in the back of your rational mind that a positive pregnancy test doesn’t always mean that the pregnancy is viable.
Here’s the deal: Ectopic pregnancies (when the fetus develops outside the uterus) and chemical pregnancies (when implantation doesn’t complete and the fetus doesn’t begin to develop normally) will both produce some level of HCG and can result in a positive at-home pregnancy test. Additionally, if you’ve recently miscarried and started trying again right away, it is possible to still have HCG in your system from the previous pregnancy.
That said, your job isn’t to fret over this; it’s just important to be armed with info, so…. here’s some 411:
- About 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage (sometimes before a woman even knows she’s pregnant). 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester.
- 50% of miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, therefore miscarriage rates are affected by maternal age.
- Once a heartbeat is detected on ultrasound — usually by 7 weeks gestation — your chance of miscarrying is 4.2%.
- By week 15, once you have a normal chromosomal screening, your risk goes down to less than 1%.
Statistics are on your side here, so file all that away and keep reading.
You may know exactly when you made that baby — that’s the date of conception. Then there’s the implantation date, which isn’t as easy to pinpoint, but is usually about a week after sexy time. BUT neither of those is actually the official start of your pregnancy, because that would make too damn much sense. Your due date is actually calculated from the first day of your last period. So if you get a positive pregnancy test on the first day of your missed period, you’re technically already four weeks pregnant — yes, even if you’re certain you conceived after drinking too much boxed wine exactly 15 days ago.
Only 36 more weeks to go! (Without boxed wine.)
Call Your OBGYN (Oh, you don’t have an OBGYN?)
Plenty of women don’t have a lady doc when they learn they’re pregnant, but you do want to get on that ASAP so you can find a provider who’s accepting new patients and takes your insurance. If you don’t know where to start, ask your friends for their recommendations, or check with your insurance. Your general practitioner may be able to recommend someone, too.
A few things to keep in mind when picking an OB:
- This person is going to be all up in your business — especially in the late stages of pregnancy — so you want to feel comfortable around them. That said, you may spend just as much time with the nurse, so make sure you get a good feeling from both.
- Since you’ll be at the doctor’s office a LOT (even weekly, at the end), try to choose one close to your home or work.
- Be sure to ask what hospital privileges your new doc has. You need to make sure your insurance will cover delivery there.
- Speaking of insurance, if you’re not insured, don’t panic (okay maybe panic a little). Insurance companies can’t reject you just because you’re pregnant (for now, anyway), and in most states, low-income pregnant women may qualify for Medicaid coverage.
When at long last you find the perfect OB who’s actually taking new patients and covered by your insurance plan, be prepared to share:
- the first day of your last period.
- a list of any medications you’re currently taking so you can be advised on what’s safe to continue and what you need to stop. If you’re on any psychiatric meds and need to stop those, be sure to check in with your psychiatrist when you get off the phone with your OB’s office, too.
- your skincare products, since ingredients like retinol, as well as acids like AHAs and BHAs (e.g. salicylic acid) are not considered safe for pregnancy.
Now when it comes to scheduling your first prenatal appointment, manage those expectations because though you want to get in as soon as humanly possible, most likely you’ll be scheduled like, AN ENTIRE MONTH after you call. WHICH FEELS LIKE A FREAKING ETERNITY.
Generally, doctors prefer to see patients about eight weeks into a pregnancy because by then they should be able to pick up a heartbeat on a doppler or ultrasound. That said, if you have a history of miscarriage or other reproductive complications, your doctor may want you in sooner. They’ll advise you to start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. Then you calmly say “thank you” as if your mind is totally at ease now and waiting four weeks is no big deal, hang up, and proceed as if life is totally normal WUUUT.
Ditch Your Bad Habits (And Some Delicious Food. Sorry.)
Quitting bad habits is easier said than done, we know. But there are a few things you really need to nip in the bud ASAP, with alcohol and cigarettes topping the list. And if you drink a gallon of coffee every day, try to cut back to a cup or two.
Other things you’re supposed to avoid:
- unpasteurized dairy
- raw fish
- organ meats
- prepared foods sitting in a deli-case at the grocery
- sliced lunch meat
Save for the organ meats (too much vitamin A), most of these ^^ recs are to keep you safe from listeria, a foodborne illness that can be serious for anyone, but even worse for pregnant women since it carries a high risk of birth defects or even miscarriage.
If you’re one to pop a couple ibuprofen when you have a headache, you’ll need to find an alternative (Tylenol is generally considered safe for pregnancy – thankfully, because pregnancy often causes headaches).
Just “Be Healthy,” Okay?
Speaking of things that are easier said than done, if there’s ever a time to make your health a priority, this is it! Yes, even though you’re likely going to be exhausted and craving all the bad things.
- Diet: Focus on eating enough protein and vegetables, and try to cut out as much processed food and sugar as you can. If you’re experiencing lots of nausea, obviously just eat whatever you’re able to keep down. Some women find having a little something in their stomach at all times can help reduce morning (er, all-day) sickness — hence the quintessential Saltine crackers, which you can place right by bed so you can get to chomping first thing.
- Hydration: Even if you don’t want to eat anything at all (or only crave pizza), be sure to drink plenty of water, and try to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Not a tall order for many pregnant women, for whom the first trimester is a very sleepy time.
- Exercise: Most pregnant women get the green light to keep up whatever exercise they did before pregnancy, (unless you’re a mountain climber or extreme whatever-er), but it’s always good to check with your doctor about that, too.
Mentally Prepare Yourself for Some Symptoms
Some women experience an onslaught of early pregnancy symptoms like breast tenderness, nausea, and exhaustion, while others feel fabulous in the first trimester. Pregnancy symptoms are not indicative of the health of your pregnancy or even the sex of your baby. They’re just the luck (sometimes bad luck) of the draw. If your symptoms are so extreme that it’s impossible for you to go about your daily tasks, definitely talk to your doctor, because there may be a medication or treatment that can help — at least a little.
Decide Who To Tell
Some people choose to tell family and close friends as soon as they get a positive pregnancy test, while others prefer to keep quiet until the first doctor’s visit or even until they’re out of the first trimester and the risk of miscarriage has gone down to less than 1%. Like many decisions related to parenting, this is a highly personal one, and one you and your partner should make together.
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And one more thing: take a deep breath
We’re not going to tell you to chill, because we know for most first-timers that’s near impossible. But try not to stress, focus on enjoying activities that help you relax, try not to get vomit on your favorite shirt, and do what you can to stay awake through an entire episode of This Is Us (and if not, that’s what DVR is for!). If you start to slide down the Google rabbit hole, remember that no app, community, or website (not even this one!) is a replacement for your doctor’s advice. Give ‘em a call. Trust: there’s nothing they haven’t heard, no matter how crazy.
Okay, seriously. Is it time for the doctor’s appointment yet?