If you want to be a parent, schedule a prenatal visit, start on prenatal vitamins, and follow these steps. If you don’t want to be a parent, you have options, too.

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So, you went to the drugstore, bought a pregnancy test, and peed on the stick. Then you waited for those what-feel-like-forever minutes until the result showed up. And it’s positive.

Now what?

First: Breathe. Whether you got the result you wanted or not, chances are your head is whirling with a million thoughts and emotions, making it tough to think clearly or know what you should do first.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help with all your next steps to take when you find out you’re pregnant.

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant, chances are you’re going to be excited and want to tell someone right away, whether that’s your partner, a close family member, or a friend.

Many people think they have to keep the news of a pregnancy secret until they’re further along, but remember, there are no rules. You get to decide when and if to reveal your pregnancy. So if you want to keep this news a secret for now, that’s your right.

That said, some people find it comforting to tell someone — even if they’re not sure they want to be pregnant. Talking to someone is a great way to work through your emotions, whether you’re feeling excited, scared, or upset (or some combination of the three!).

When should you share your pregnancy news?

Some people may wait until after 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the risk of miscarriage goes down, but the choice is completely up to you.

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If you have a doctor or midwife in mind already, give them a call as soon as possible. They’ll most likely want to schedule a visit, do some blood work, prescribe prenatal vitamins, and make sure you have everything you need.

If you don’t have a preferred healthcare professional, look into getting one ASAP. Ask friends or family for recommendations, or look for a healthcare office near you.

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood also offer affordable access to healthcare, including prenatal care if you’re not sure where to start. Check with your local Planned Parenthood health center to see what services they offer, as not all centers offer prenatal care.

Just make sure you pick a doctor or midwife that you feel comfortable with and that you trust. Not only could this person deliver your baby, but you’ll also be seeing them a lot over the next 9 or so months. Most offices operate as a group, so it’s also a good idea to get to know as many health professionals there as you can.

During your pregnancy, you should generally expect to see your OB or midwife:

  • once per month until week 28
  • twice per month from weeks 28 to 36
  • weekly from week 36 to birth

If you have a high-risk pregnancy or any complications, you might need additional appointments.

Your first prenatal appointment may involve confirming the pregnancy with an early ultrasound or blood work and going over your medical history and medications to set your pregnancy off on a healthy start.

A healthcare professional will also calculate your due date and provide lots of information about what to expect during pregnancy.

Be sure to ask your pregnancy care professional lots of questions. Feel free to write some down ahead of your visit. Your prenatal appointments are your opportunity to ask any and all questions to better help you care for yourself during pregnancy.

You should let your doctor or midwife know if you’re experiencing any symptoms such as bleeding, cramping, or pain.

If you haven’t started already, you should begin taking a prenatal vitamin right away, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). This will help make sure that you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy pregnancy.

You can purchase prenatal vitamins over the counter (OTC) at most major pharmacies or grocery stores. Just be sure it has at least 400 mcg of folic acid, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You can also ask your pregnancy care professional for recommendations or a prescription.

Prenatal vitamins are crucial because your baby’s neural tube — which later becomes their brain and spinal cord — develops during the first month of pregnancy. Folate helps reduce the chances of neural tube irregularities, such as those that cause spina bifida.

Pick the right prenatal

Be sure to choose a prenatal vitamin that has at least 400 mcg of folic acid, per the CDC.

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Other things your prenatal vitamins should have are:

  • calcium
  • vitamins A, C, D, and E
  • vitamin B12
  • zinc
  • copper
  • magnesium

Your healthcare professional will also generally recommend you separately take an iron supplement as well.

Some prenatal vitamins also include choline, which is essential for brain development and placental function, according to 2018 research.

They also may include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for baby’s brain growth and function.

Let your pregnancy care professional know about any medications or supplements you’re taking. Not all of them are safe to take during pregnancy because they can pass through the placenta.

However, you should never discontinue a medication before talking with your doctor either. Many medications, like antidepressants, can cause severe side effects if you stop them cold turkey.

A healthcare professional can help you make a plan for safely tapering any medications that aren’t recommended during pregnancy.

Some pain medications, such as ibuprofen (i.e., Advil or Motrin) are not safe to take during pregnancy. Your provider can also tell you which OTC medications you can take.

For example, if you have a headache or run a fever while you’re pregnant, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you have allergies, you can take certain OTC medications, according to ACOG.

Your best bet, though, is asking your doctor what they recommend for your specific situation, so you can make sure it’s safe for both you and baby.

Medication alert!

Never stop taking any medication cold turkey during your pregnancy without talking with your doctor.

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You don’t have to tell your employer that you’re pregnant until you’re ready. Still, you’re going to need time for doctor’s appointments — and you should make a plan in case complications arise.

Also be sure that you fully understand your state and employer’s maternity policy. There is no mandated paid maternity leave in the United States, so there’s no guarantee your employer will offer you paid leave when your baby is born.

Will you get paid maternity leave?

You may be covered for parental leave through your job, by your state, or through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

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However, the FMLA entitles you to job-protected unpaid leave with health coverage if you work in certain full-time positions, so it’s a good idea to see if you’re eligible.

In addition, some states, such as New York and California, do provide paid family leave for eligible full-time employees.

If you plan to go back to work after you have your baby, you might want to get an early jump on looking for day care. While it might seem soon, some day cares have very long waiting lists. That’s why many experts recommend registering your baby for child care about 1 year before you need it.

According to the CDC, there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy. All alcohol — including wines and beer — can potentially harm a growing baby and contribute to miscarriage, stillbirth, or a number of disabilities.

You should also quit smoking, if you can. All tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) are unsafe because they contain nicotine, which can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs.

The CDC and ACOG also advise against all forms of marijuana use during pregnancy.

Because pregnant people metabolize caffeine slower and because caffeine crosses the placenta, per 2015 research, it is recommended that you decrease your caffeine intake during pregnancy.

ACOG recommends that you limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg or less per day, which is about 2 cups of regular coffee. Research from 2008 suggests that caffeine intake over 200 mg per day raises the risk of miscarriage.

Keep an eye on all sources of caffeine, including:

  • soda
  • dark chocolate
  • tea

Good nutrition is always important, but it’s especially important while you’re pregnant because your baby needs the right amount of nutrients to grow and develop.

While you’re pregnant, you should make sure you stay hydrated and eat balanced meals containing lots of:

  • vitamins and minerals
  • complex carbohydrates
  • healthy types of fat
  • protein
  • fiber

In other words, foods such as whole grains, legumes, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and cooked lean meats are great choices.

However, there are lots of foods you should also avoid during pregnancy because they can pose a risk to you or the baby. These include:

  • high mercury fish, such as swordfish and large tuna
  • sushi
  • undercooked or raw meat, fish, and eggs
  • raw sprouts
  • unwashed fruits and vegetables
  • unpasteurized milk, cheese, and fruit juice
  • deli meat

All meats and fish, including sushi, need to be fully cooked.

Not everyone gets morning sickness — but experts estimate that around 70 to 80 percent of pregnant people do.

And here’s the thing: It doesn’t just strike in the morning. It can hit at any time of day (or night).

Morning sickness generally begins around week 6 of your pregnancy and lasts until the end of your first trimester. For some people, however, it can last longer. In rare cases, a severe condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) can occur.

It’s a good idea to stock up on some supplies to help you get through if morning sickness does strike. Here are a few suggestions for things you can pick up:

  • anti-nausea bands
  • saltine crackers
  • peppermint tea or lozenges
  • ginger tea or candies
  • carbonated water

It may not be something you’d like to think about, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the signs of a miscarriage in the first trimester, so you know when to call a doctor.

Call your doctor right away if you experience any symptoms such as:

  • bleeding
  • cramping
  • pain
  • foul-smelling discharge

Call your doctor right away if you suspect a miscarriage

Signs of a miscarriage include bleeding, cramping, and pain in your abdominal area.

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If you’re pregnant and don’t feel ready to be a parent and don’t want to have a baby, you have options, including adoption or abortion.

Some people find it helpful to talk with their partner, a supportive family member, friends, or a therapist if they’re considering termination or adoption. You can also ask your doctor for guidance and support.

No matter what you choose, having a support system before, during, and after can be very beneficial.

Just remember: The decision to continue or terminate your pregnancy is yours alone to make. No one should pressure you to make a decision you’re not comfortable with. You alone know what’s right for you.

If you do decide to pursue a termination, here are some steps you can take:

  • Understand the laws in your area. Abortion is legal in the United States, but restrictions vary from state to state about how and when it can be performed. In some states, you will need parental consent if you’re under age 18.
  • Know the costs. Abortion range in costs from $300 to $800 for a medical abortion, such as the abortion pill. Surgical abortions can cost up to $1,000 or more.
  • Find a provider. Doctors, abortion clinics, and Planned Parenthood centers all perform abortions. To find the closest provider, ask your primary care doctor or OB-GYN, or look through directories offered by Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion Federation.
  • Evaluate the clinic. When you visit the clinic, make sure the staff is made up of doctors and nurses. There are some facilities, called crisis pregnancy centers, that offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds but don’t perform abortions.
  • Have a support system in place. Your provider should offer follow-up care following a termination. If you want support after an abortion, you can reach out to these organizations:

Whether you’re excited, scared, or unsure about your pregnancy, you can take certain steps after you get a positive pregnancy test.

If you want to be a parent:

  • Schedule a prenatal visit.
  • Start on prenatal vitamins.
  • Make sure you know how to take care of yourself until your baby arrives.

If you don’t want to be a parent, you have options, too. Just make sure you know your rights and look for a reputable healthcare professional.