After a sneaking suspicion or a hopeful wish, you peed on a stick and saw two lines! (Or you saw "pregnant" if you had the fancy test.) Now what? After the excitement and early announcement activity dies down, it's time to start thinking about your birth. Wait-- what? You just found out you're pregnant and it's time to start thinking about your birth?? Yes. I'm not talking about running around packing your hospital bag, or practicing different labor positions and comfort techniques. Pregnancy is a journey with the end goal of a safe and healthy birth, and a healthy baby and parent. Each step taken during pregnancy -- yes, even in the first few days and weeks after those two lines -- moves you in the direction toward your goal. Let's take a look at the first first, most important things you can do after a positive pregnancy test.
Pause. Breathe. Relish. Explore. Ok, so there are a lot of little things included in this first step, but the main idea is to take a moment before moving forward with the to-dos. Use this time of reflection to check in with your emotions, to savor what it feels like to be in the early moments of pregnancy, and to inquire with yourself on what is most important to you in pregnancy, birth, and parenting. This "checking in" is a key first step as it allows you to center on how you feel about pregnancy and birth before you receive the inevitable deluge of information and advice. Consider journaling about this early moment in pregnancy -- it's fun to look back on, can serve as a stress-relieving therapy, and can be helpful to remind yourself of your core values and priorities.
Research, identify, and interview potential providers. This is very different from "make an appointment with your doctor," which is often the first piece of advice families are given after becoming pregnant. It's important to be selective when choosing your care provider. Don't just assume that your existing OB or family doctor is the best fit -- maybe she is, but please take the time and investigate whether your care provider practices according to best research for healthy birth practices and aligns with your key priorities. Check out this interview guide to better prepare yourself when meeting with potential providers.
Start learning. While it's a little early to take a childbirth class, it's never to early to start learning about birth! Seek out evidence-based resources and start digging into reputable websites and books (check out the newly revised Giving Birth with Confidence book to start with!). Learn what research says is most important to having a safe and healthy birth (choosing the right care provider is at the top of that list!). Make a commitment to doing what it takes to have a great and healthy birth. Consider taking an early pregnancy course -- either in person or online. Check out the "Prepared for Pregnancy" online class from Lamaze.
Identify key habits and practices needed for a healthy pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy is one of the core components of a healthy birth. Find out what it takes to have a healthy pregnancy, including the right nutrition, regular exercise, good prenatal care, and reducing stress. Determine which of your current habits you might need to change or improve upon and make a commitment to change.
Surround yourself with support. A healthy pregnancy and birth happens easier when you have a solid foundation of support. It's hard to do it all by yourself! Involve your partner, your friends, your family members, your online community -- whomever you feel will provide the most support and love without judgement.