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Seve Starling pregnancy support from experts
Pregnancy

I'm Pregnant Now What? Essential Pregnancy Resources to Get Started

Written By
Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula

Pregnancy Resources, Options and Support

A confirmed pregnancy brings all manner of life changes. Find out your options, take action, and start planning today for your health, pregnancy support and long term reproductive health.

If you just found out you are pregnant you may still be thinking, “I’m pregnant now what?” We’ve put together an overview of pregnancy resources including care options, healthy prenatal choices and support considerations for your journey from conception onwards.

Get Pregnancy Care

  • Prenatal Health Care
  • Pregnancy Care Providers
  • Unplanned Pregnancy Options
  • Unplanned Pregnancy Support & Resources

Pregnancy Health and Self-Care

  • Pregnancy Nutrition
  • Pregnancy Activity and Rest
  • Mental Wellness

Things to Avoid

  • Substance Use
  • Daily Exposures

What’s Next?

Get Pregnancy Care

Whatever your pregnancy journey may look like, your health is a priority that benefits from extra care and attention when you are pregnant. Your current health status and pregnancy status may determine some of your options, and the providers or locations where you receive care may also influence your experience, as described below.

Prenatal Health Care

Timely, appropriate medical care is one of the best ways to support your health while pregnant and prevent any complications. If your goal is to have a baby, you will want to see a prenatal health care provider who can help you get care now and over the coming months. If you are unsure about the status or continuation of your pregnancy, you will want to see a provider who can help you make supported, informed decisions about your next steps, which could include:

  • Confirming the status and gestational age of this pregnancy via blood work and/or ultrasounds
  • Screening for any risk considerations in your current health or health history
  • Establishing care with a midwife, obstetrician, or other perinatal health care provider for your immediate needs and/or long-term prenatal, childbirth and postpartum care periods
  • Referrals for specialized, alternative or therapeutic care as needed/requested
  • Establishing eligibility for pregnancy-related social services and additional resources

If you have recently confirmed your are pregnant, either with an at-home pregnancy test kit or from clinical urine and blood test results, you have options about next steps. If you have a planned pregnancy you are feeling excited about, then congratulations! Scroll to the next sections for more on early pregnancy health or jump to our overviews of first trimester changes and common but strange symptoms!

Pregnancy Care Providers

Whatever your next best steps are, they are yours to make, and the type of care provider you work with is one of the first choices you may encounter. There are a few different types of prenatal health care providers who might provide the majority of your care while pregnant or in the period following pregnancy. The main determinants of your options are:

  • Your preferences for your own body, care and practitioner approach to pregnancy
  • The type of health insurance you use to cover the costs of prenatal care (private insurance, state-funded insurance, out-of-pocket, etc.); any limitations, extended benefits or alternatives offered by your plan
  • Your budget, if paying for any care out-of-pocket
  • Your regional area and any state regulations or laws about reproductive care
  • How close you are to facilities for non-urgent and emergency medical services

In the United States, the majority of pregnant people and women get their care from these types of providers:

  • Your existing primary care provider may be able to confirm your pregnancy, give you basic prenatal care, and share or transfer care as needed for any special screenings, procedures, and for labor and delivery
  • A Certified Professional Midwife is a primary medical care provider who serves low-risk pregnant people, postpartum patients, and newborns, and provides life cycle well-woman care. CPM’s serve 3-5% of births nationally, usually in a home birth setting. These providers specialize in both medical and holistic care and may utilize traditional as well as modern evidence-based methods.
  • A Certified Nurse Midwife is a primary medical care provider who serves low-risk pregnant people through the reproductive cycle. They are advanced nursing professionals with a maternal and infant health focus that often puts them in partnership with birth centers, physician-led practices and hospitals offering an obstetric model of care. CNMs and CM’s combined serve about 10% of US births. CNMs are often associated with lower-intervention approaches and may or may not utilize holistic methods.
  • An Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB/GYN) is a physician and surgeon specializing in complicated or higher-risk reproductive health conditions, pregnancies, and deliveries, including Cesarean section. Currently, OB/GYN’s serve the majority of American pregnant people and may also work with other types of professionals in sharing care for a given client.

Unplanned Pregnancy Options

A number of factors, from contraception access to dating culture, could lead to an unplanned pregnancy. It’s important to recognize that as many as 50% of US pregnancies are unplanned, and of those, some are unwanted when they occur. If you experience unplanned pregnancy, you may feel excited, and you may feel a lot of other things, including stress or overwhelm - however you feel, you deserve support.

Whether it’s celebration, compassion, or solutions you seek, you are not alone and can get appropriate help as you consider your options:

Pregnancy and parenting will of course mean continuing on with healthy care, as well as serious responsibilities and lifestyle adjustments that come with years of child-rearing. Of course, many people have strong preferences or deeply-held beliefs about how and when they want to parent, and these are worthy of your serious consideration and seeking out trusted counsel if helpful.

Pregnancy and adoption will mean carrying pregnancy to term and taking good care of prenatal health with the aim of placing a child for adoption - this decision benefits from professional guidance as there are a number of options that may be available through agencies, organizations and private arrangements. Getting support, hearing real adoption stories, and working with a well-vetted local organization may be the best way to find out your options and place your child in a safe, welcoming family.

Abortion options are usually available through the first trimester and the early part of the second trimester, so this decision is time sensitive to when pregnancy began. Having children is a personal choice, and in the United States, legally protected as a decision of the pregnant person. Reasons someone might consider alternatives to continuing pregnancy include:

  • A lack of financial stability or a safe living environment
  • A lack of economic, social or psychological readiness to parent
  • Health challenges that could interfere with pregnancy and parenting capacity
  • Risk factors or complications that threaten parental or fetal health
  • Problems or lack of a healthy relationship with the other person involved in conception
  • High-priority demands related to career, education or family obligations
  • A desire not to be a parent now, at this time, or ever
  • A commitment to current children or other people who are dependent on you
  • A commitment to certain goals related to future family planning
  • Any other reasons that feel important to you or your perception of your future life as an individual or potential parent

Unplanned Pregnancy Resources & Considerations

If you are navigating a decision regarding the future of your pregnancy, here are some things you may consider in the process:

  • If you do continue your pregnancy, you’ll want to consider your best support team - in an unplanned scenario you may need to seek out additional support depending on the reaction of your family, friends, and potential co-parent.
  • Decisions about continuing or ending a pregnancy are best made sooner than later, as the safety of procedures decreases over time. If you are considering abortion, you will need to find out your options for medical and manual abortion procedures. Options may vary by state, and depending on your age and legal status, you may need additional assistance obtaining these services.
  • Given the spread of misinformation and the social stigma surrounding accidental, unplanned, and terminated pregnancies, it is important to speak to someone you trust. Some services and providers that market themselves as clinics are actually anti-choice groups, so do your best to research your options ahead of time and find a qualified provider to go over your decision and plan of care.

Pregnancy Health and Self-Care

The same basic components of adult health factor into pregnancy, with some extra considerations and precautions. Pregnancy relies on sensitive chemical and physical processes connected to the nervous system every major process of body and mind, from digestion to immune health to emotions. Pregnancy is also often described as a spiritual experience, and you may find that your optimal pregnancy includes care beyond the physical. Some of the changes of pregnancy are demanding, and everyone’s experience is different, but there are things you can do starting today to support your health and by extension your baby’s well-being.

Pregnancy Nutrition

Food is personal, and undeniably important - especially when pregnant. A pregnant person doesn’t exactly eat for two, but they do need a few hundred extra calories on average, and a wide variety of essential macro and micro nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy and beyond.

  • Adequate protein for pregnant people is more than commonly known - about 100 grams per day, with highest need in the third trimester. Quality protein is found in lean meats, poultry and fish as well as combinations of protein-rich plant foods, such as chickpeas (hummus), beans or peas (legumes), and even certain hearty vegetables like broccoli and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Eggs (with yolks) are an excellent source of choline, which is hard to find elsewhere and necessary for baby’s brain development.
  • Dark, leafy and green vegetables like swiss chard, kales, broccolis, bok choy and spinach deliver essential vitamins and minerals responsible for immune function, blood health, bone and nervous system development and more - for you and your baby!
  • Folic acid is found in many green foods but research shows clear and important benefits for supplementing with this essential mineral, which protects your baby from serious developmental problems. It is highly recommended to start supplementing with 400 micrograms daily of folic acid before pregnancy or as soon as a pregnancy is confirmed.
  • Vitamin C from food supports all kinds of functions by supporting cellular metabolism. It’s considered a nutritionally-based preventative measure against infection, and is necessary for utilizing other important nutrients like iron, among many others. This vitamin is often found in red or orange foods, as are many other important vitamins.
  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, farro, whole grain or sprouted bread products, and whole grain pastas serve long, slow-burning energy that supports a healthy weight, energy demands and even brain function.
  • Healthy fats in the form of nuts, hard cheeses, fatty plants like avocados and coconut,  traditional and cold-pressed cooking oils like olive oil and moderate animal fats are all essential for hormonal balance and brain function in adults and babies.
  • Hydration! Aim for the classic 8-10oz a day - or more! Sip frequently to make the most of hydration and minimize extra bathroom trips. One of the most common reasons for urgent care admissions is dehydration, so keep a convenient bottle on hand if it’s what helps you be consistent.

Food itself can be a very personal and sensitive topic, and if you need help figuring out the most realistic and healthiest options for your personal needs, preferences and lifestyle, it’s worth consulting with a care provider, nutritionist, or other support person. Find more on nutrition, safety, recipes and more with these resources:

Pregnancy Activity and Rest

As you might have read in our overview of first trimester symptoms and expectations there are a lot of changes in hormones, fluid volume, joints and metabolism that impact the way you use energy throughout the day and how your posture, strength and balance function. Seven Starling's extensive prenatal curriculum includes lots of ideas and inspiration for movement practices, quality rest, and daily practices that feel good for your body.

Incorporating exercise into your pregnancy is a healthy part of your journey. Ideally, pregnant people should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. When your care and support teams recommend “minimal-impact” or “low intensity” exercise, it’s because pregnancy softens your joints, shifts your center of gravity, and changes your metabolism enough to impact your energy levels.

Exact recommendations for exercise will depend on your current health status and activity level. You may be able to continue an existing workout regimen with modifications for comfort and safety - discuss your preferred routines with your prenatal health care provider. If are just starting to incorporate movement practices into your life, prioritize activities that:

  • Lengthen, strengthen and tone muscles
  • Mobilize and balance your pelvis
  • Increase flexibility
  • Get your heart and lungs activated to support cardiovascular health

Rest will also be an essential factor in your daily well-being, and interruptions to sleep quality or duration are one of the most common complaints of pregnancy. Consider a pregnancy pillow, daytime naps, or additional measures as necessary to keep up with the energy demands of both hormonal and developmental shifts.

Mental Wellness

Over a period of about 10 months, a full-term pregnancy is a long-term process that requires physical endurance,  lifestyle changes, and the various types of pressure that may come with any major social event, family change or momentous life shift. It is common to experience a mix of emotions during pregnancy and mental well-being might be influenced by heightened sensitivity to an individual’s sense of safety, belonging, social support and optimism about the future.

Hormones and neurotransmitters like cortisol, adrenaline and oxytocin play roles in physiological function (i.e., digestion, immune response, inflammation), but also in the psychological experiences of emotional anxiety or well-being, fear or calm, and isolation or belonging. Those same chemical messengers are influenced by social interaction - both positive and negative.

Identifying and utilizing your ideal support systems is key to thriving mental health in pregnancy and beyond, and what that looks like is different for everyone. Mental health support may include anything from working with a professional doula, joining a pregnancy group, seeing a counselor, or simply spending more time on daily stress relief measures like spending time in nature.

Things to Avoid

The health of a pregnancy is reliant on protection from exposure to toxins like alcohol, industrial chemicals, and cigarette smoke. There are also habitual activities, like flying frequently for work or performing heavy lifting, that are best avoided for you and your baby’s safety.

Substance Use

With the physical changes of pregnancy, come some necessary changes to your activities to keep you and your baby safe. Many families often ask for a list of activities they should avoid. While it is crucial to check with your prenatal health care provider, today we offer a few key tips below on alcohol and substance use during pregnancy:

  • Alcohol - Alcohol should not be consumed during your pregnancy as high levels can be dangerous for your baby’s brain development, which occurs throughout the duration of your pregnancy, and can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports that there is no safe exposure level and cautions against alcohol use during pregnancy.
  • Marijuana - The FDA strongly advises against the use of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and marijuana in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. THC can pass through the placenta and it takes about a month to fully clear the system. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends that pregnant people not use marijuana.
  • Other substance use - Opioids refer to prescribed substances used for pain like oxycodone and illegally produced substances like heroin. There are some conditions where a pregnant person may need to take opioids during pregnancy for a short or long period of time. If you fall into this category, have a conversation with your prenatal health care provider about the risks and benefits. Otherwise, opioid use can cause serious complications for the birthing parent and baby, such as delayed development and preterm birth.

Everyday Foods and Activities

While in the early days of your pregnancy, nausea may make it hard for you to maintain a well-rounded diet. This may be heightened by changes to taste perception during pregnancy which can lead to food cravings and aversions. It is important to be aware of foods that may present a risk to your health based on modern evidence. Our tips and resources on foods and activities to avoid are below:

  • High-mercury foods - There are many benefits to eating fish during pregnancy. However, certain types of fish have high mercury levels and should be avoided during pregnancy, e.g., swordfish, mackerel, tilefish, shark, and bigeye tuna.
  • Uncooked meats and cat litter - Consuming raw or undercooked meats or coming into contact with cat feces that have been infected by a parasitic infection known as toxoplasmosis can have major implications on a baby's development if infection happens during pregnancy. Reduce exposure by consuming cooked meat, cleaning utensils that have touched raw meat, and having a support person discard cat litter if you have a cat.
  • Listeria - Pregnant people are 10x more likely than the average person to get Listeria, a bacteria that causes serious illness, including food poisoning. Exposure can lead to preterm labor, stillbirth, and neonatal infections. To prevent listeria infection, avoid deli meats, smoked seafood, unpasteurized food (e.g., soft cheeses), and unwashed produce. You can learn more here.
  • Caffeine - Limit caffeine to 200 milligrams each day. 200 milligrams is roughly equivalent to one 12-ounce cup of coffee or 2.5 cups of tea. It is important to remember that caffeine is found in other food and beverage items like chocolate, coffee ice cream, and soft drinks, as well.
  • Very Hot showers, tubs, and especially jacuzzis - Hot water immersion can be risky during early pregnancy, as heating your body’s core temperature over 101 Fahrenheit has been linked to birth defects like neural tube defects.

In addition to these, certain workplace exposures, medications and other environmental hazards are best avoided in pregnancy. Always consult with a care provider if you are unsure if a situation is safe for you, and take a look at our first trimester overview for more on toxins, medications safety and more.

What’s Next?

Here are some Seven Starling resources for next steps in your early pregnancy, including information about what to expect, navigating prenatal health care, and getting the support that will help you feel confident, healthy and empowered in your unique journey to parenthood.

The First Trimester

There is plenty to learn about the changes your body is going through and what it will be like to receive care, as well as your options for additional support. Find our overview here.

Experiencing new symptoms, or still not sure if you are pregnant? Confirm that what you are experiencing is probably normal with this list of pregnancy signs, or get the details on pregnancy test timing with this guide.

Partner Support

You and your family deserve professional support, but when it comes down to it, your primary support person, be they partner, co-parent or other relative, is your #1 resource for day-to-day care and nurturing. No matter your pregnancy situation, your personalities, or your goals, there are things the people closest to you can do to help, starting today, with tips for partner support.

Birth Planning

Once you establish prenatal care and start learning about your options for the remainder of your pregnancy and birth, you’ll find yourself doing some planning. Whether it’s considerations for medical intervention in labor or preferences for newborn procedures, planning for birth is a helpful process that gets you and your team on the same page and facilitates empowered, informed decisions.

Seven Starling's expert coaches are especially equipped to help you understand and plan around your options for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, so sign up today, and get started with our birth planning template in the meantime!

Looking for pregnancy help?

If you have concerns about your immediate health, it may be recommended to get urgent care, even if you have not yet formally confirmed your pregnancy or established prenatal care. Otherwise, it is always safer to call your provider’s office or nurse hotline for more information if you have questions or feel intuitively that something is wrong.

Any symptoms that are severe or rapidly intensifying may be a sign of something more serious - please seek medical care or call 9-1-1 if you have a medical emergency.

Seek medical care now if you are pregnant and…

  • Have vaginal bleeding beyond light spotting
  • Sudden swelling with changes in vision or headache
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever, chills, other signs of infection or painful urination
  • Physical injury or severe pain
  • Emotional trauma or thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby
  • Any other reason you believe you or your baby’s health are in danger

Selected Sources

Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula
Jessalyn (she/her) is a Childbirth Educator and Doula serving families in the San Francisco Bay Area, nationwide, and in her new home of Eugene, Oregon. She started studying birth in 2010 as an anthropologist, and often brings a systemic approach to helping birthing people to understand their options, experiences and possibilities. She integrates evidence-based training and research with a holistic mindset and an activist’s passion for reproductive empowerment. Jessalyn serves on the board for the Oakland Better Birth Foundation, where birthworkers, birthing people, and care providers work together to end preventable maternal and infant mortality and address racial disparities in health care. Jessalyn is a CAPPA-Certified Childbirth Educator, SMC Full-Circle Doula.
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