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What to Do if You Find Out You're Pregnant

Here are the immediate steps you should take once you find out you're pregnant.

A woman holds a pregnancy test in her hand
Oscar Wong/Getty Images
For more information about your reproductive health rights and related federal resources, you can visit the US government's Reproductive Rights site.

Finding out you're pregnant, whether planned or unexpected, is an emotionally overwhelming experience. Once you move past your initial reaction of utter happiness or complete shock, you may wonder, what should you do now? 

First and foremost, know that you have a sea of resources available to provide you support, including the loved ones in your life. Don't be afraid to celebrate with or confide in the people you trust about the news, especially if it'll bring you comfort. 

Once you have your bearings, it's time to look ahead to the next steps in your journey. 

I'm so excited. What next?

Congratulations on the bun in the oven, parenthood is on its way! From this point forward, taking care of yourself and your body is important to help promote a healthy pregnancy.  

1. Choose your doctor or midwife

One of the first things on your checklist should be finding a doctor (an obstetrician) or midwife if you don't have one already. Take your time with this decision. This will be the person you have checkups with throughout the pregnancy, and they'll likely be the one to help you deliver the baby. Keep in mind that many obstetrician groups actually use an "on call" system. This means that patients will most likely see multiple providers throughout their pregnancies, and whoever is on call when a patient delivers will assist in delivery.

If you don't have access to a health care provider and don't know where to start, Planned Parenthood is a great resource. You can use the health center locator to find a location near you that offers prenatal care.  

2. Schedule your prenatal appointments

Once you have a health care provider, schedule your first prenatal appointment. There, you can expect to have bloodwork done or an early ultrasound so your doctor can confirm you're pregnant. 

They should also discuss your medical history and any medications you're on to ensure you aren't taking anything that could harm your pregnancy. For example, popular anti-inflammatory meds like ibuprofen aren't safe to take while pregnant. 

Your doctor will review expectations, give you an estimated due date and prescribe prenatal vitamins if you're not taking any. Use this opportunity to ask any questions or concerns you might have – there's no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to this. 

You can expect an overload of information at your first appointment, so don't be afraid to take notes, or have a loved one take notes for you.

You should plan your prenatal visits as follows:

  • Monthly until week 28
  • Twice per month until week 36
  • Every week from week 36 to birth

3. Take prenatal vitamins

It's never too early in your pregnancy to start taking prenatal vitamins. In fact, experts suggest that people of childbearing age take prenatal vitamins when you're conceiving or one month before pregnancy. Your doctor can prescribe prenatal vitamins to you, or you can purchase them over the counter at most pharmacies and grocery stores like CVS, Walgreens and Safeway. 

The CDC recommends your prenatal vitamins have at least 400mcg of folic acid. It should also contain vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as calcium and zinc. Your prenatal vitamin is important to properly help the development of your baby, such as its neural tube, brain, brain functions and placenta functions.

4. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and excess caffeine

Cut out substances including alcohol, tobacco and marijuana once you find out you're pregnant. These substances are proven to have harmful effects on your child's development and can lead to a miscarriage or stillbirth. 

It's also recommended you reduce your caffeine intake to 200 mg or less per day. Any more than that can increase your risk of a miscarriage, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

5. Avoid these foods

In addition to certain substances, there are also foods to avoid during pregnancy because they can be harmful for your pregnancy. 

  • Bigeye tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Swordfish
  • Raw seafood
  • Sushi
  • Crawfish
  • Raw eggs
  • Unwashed veggies or fruits
  • Raw sprouts
  • Radish
  • Unpasteurized milk and cheese
  • Raw meat
  • Deli meats

Focus on eating nutritious foods high in protein, fiber, rich carbohydrates and healthy fats, as well as fruits and veggies, to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. 

6. Calculate expenses 

Childbirth is expensive with insurance and especially without it. In 2020, a vaginal birth cost an average of $13,000 for those with insurance in the US and a whopping $30,000 to $50,000 for uninsured people. Births that involve a cesarean section, or C-section, range from $7,500 to $14,500, depending on the state you live in. And that's for births without complications. 

Unfortunately, complications may occur during childbirth which include premature rupture of the amniotic sac, breathing difficulty, critical umbilical cord positioning, postpartum hemorrhage, internal bleeding in brain and anemia. These complications require specific medical interventions, such as emergency C-sections, which can add extra costs to your final bill.  It's estimated that these complications can cost around 20% more than a normal vaginal birth. 

When you find out that you're pregnant, you should expect financial obligations to come with your pregnancy, and it'll be beneficial to calculate upcoming expenses so you're prepared when your baby is born. 

Additional resources 

If you're overwhelmed with the thought of affording childbirth and the costs that come with it, there are government programs and other organizations that are here to help with pre and postnatal care. 

I didn't plan for this. What next?

If you received a positive pregnancy test hoping for a negative result, take a deep breath and remember you have options. You can choose to have a medical or surgical termination, or you can carry the pregnancy to term and proceed with adoption. Don't feel rushed to make this decision.

You're encouraged to speak with your loved ones or a professional (like a therapist or doctor) if you want to discuss your decision with another person. However, by no means do you have to. While there might be outside factors trying to influence your decision, remember that what you want to do with your body is up to you.  

Terminating the pregnancy

If you are pregnant and don't want to have a child, one option is abortion. However, this option is not legally available to all people in the United States. 

On June 24, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 case that established a constitutional right to an abortion in all 50 states. As a result, the decision is left up to individual states if they want to make abortion illegal, and some have already done that or are moving to do that. 

Read more: Abortion Laws in Every State: A Breakdown of Laws After Roe v. Wade

Types of abortions and the cost

You can have a medical abortion, which involves taking a pill to terminate the pregnancy or a surgical abortion. A medical abortion costs around $300 or more, while it's around $1,000 or more for a surgical one. 

Finding a provider

Your primary hospital, OB-GYN or other doctor can guide you to your closest provider. You can also find a provider through Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion Federation

If you are struggling to pay for an abortion, your state may have a clinic near you that can help you arrange one. Click here to see the ones you have available to you. 

Beware of crisis pregnancy centers

Certain clinics, known as crisis pregnancy centers, may seem like they offer abortions, but their entire purpose is to talk you out of getting an abortion. These clinics may offer prenatal counseling, ultrasounds or pregnancy tests, but they will not perform an abortion. They also tend to situate themselves next to Planned Parenthood or abortion clinics. 

If you are indeed seeking an abortion and are not interested in hearing arguments to convince you otherwise, do your due diligence and research before going into a facility to ensure it can provide the services and support you want.  

Reach out to an adoption service or counselor

If you are pregnant but for any reason can't keep the child and don't wish to have an abortion, your other option is adoption. 

Adoption is the process of legally giving another person or family parental guardianship over the child you give birth to. If you choose to go the adoption route, the first step is to find a professional adoption agency near you or an adoption attorney. If you can't decide whether you should go through an agency or attorney, the National Council for Adoption can offer help. 

It won't cost you money to place a child up for adoption. Your agency will provide you with the services you need and help you find the right family to relinquish your baby to. Some services can provide you with medical care during pregnancy and counseling before and/or after giving birth.  

Other services include this helpful adoption resource guide, which includes information for birth mothers and explanations on types of adoption. There are also support groups and resources for birth moms and parents looking for emotional support through the process.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.