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Illustration by Alyssa Keifer

Feeling a mix of emotions after seeing a positive test result is perfectly normal, and actually, quite common. You may find yourself ecstatic one minute and crying the next — and not necessarily happy tears.

Even if you’ve been getting up close and personal with your partner for several months, a positive pregnancy test is often a shock. You may even find yourself doubting the accuracy of the test and taking five more before you finally trust the results. (Don’t worry, this happens ALL the time!)

Regardless of where you are on the roller coaster of emotions, one thing’s for sure: You probably have a ton of questions about what to do next.

The good news? There are experts, online resources, and other parents who can walk you through this process. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about a positive pregnancy test — and your next steps.

While not as accurate as a blood test, the home pregnancy tests you have stashed under your bathroom sink are actually quite effective — 97 percent effective, in fact, according to OB-GYN Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to come in for an in-office pregnancy test, which measures the exact amount of hCG in the blood. Gaither says these in-office blood tests are about 99 percent effective.

Many people experience symptoms before they even see a positive pregnancy test. In fact, those strange urges, cravings, and feelings of nausea are often the reason many moms-to-be take a pregnancy test.

If your period comes like clockwork, a missed cycle could be your first sign that a positive pregnancy test is inevitable. You may also feel like you live in the bathroom. Frequent trips to the potty are a result of increased blood flow to your pelvic area (thanks, hormones!). Your kidneys work to process all the extra fluid, which means you have to urinate more often.

Nausea, feeling tired, and sore breasts, which often hurt a LOT more than before your period, are other signs that indicate that it’s time to break out the pregnancy tests.

While rare, a home pregnancy test can result in a false positive result. This can happen with chemical pregnancies, a recent miscarriage, or certain medications or medical conditions.

If you feel unsure about the accuracy of the results there’s nothing wrong with taking another test or calling your doctor or midwife for further confirmation. But, in general, a positive on a test is a pretty accurate indicator that you are pregnant.

Your test may be positive, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily feel positive about how to deal with this news.

Consider making an appointment with a medical provider to discuss your feelings about the pregnancy and how to move forward. You have options, including adoption, termination, and continuing the pregnancy.

A professional can offer counseling and resources to help you make an informed decision about what is right for you.

If you decide to continue the pregnancy, your next step will be …

To ensure a healthy pregnancy, it’s time to make an appointment for prenatal care. Each provider has different guidelines as to when they want you to come in for your first appointment. Some will ask that you wait until after week 8, while others may want you to come in right away.

During your first appointment, Gaither says you can expect the following:

  • medical and social history including a reproductive and gynecologic history and family history
  • physical exam
  • ultrasound to date the pregnancy
  • series of lab tests

This is also the time to tell your doctor or midwife about any medications you’re taking. They will determine if your current medications are safe to continue or recommend a new drug that is safer to take while pregnant.

Finding a provider

If you don’t have a healthcare provider or you’re thinking about changing, you may be wondering what your options are.

In general, many parents will go with an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) as their primary care provider. That said, some parents may choose to stay with a family doctor, especially if they can provide the appropriate prenatal care.

Another option is a midwife. In general, midwives provide more education than physicians and can often spend more time with their patients. When considering this route, it’s important to look at the different types of midwives, including certified nurse midwives (CNM), certified midwives (CM), and certified professional midwives (CPM).

A 2016 review of studies showed that care with midwives leads to higher rates of vaginal births, lower rates of preterm birth, and higher patient satisfaction.

With so many choices, how should you decide? “I think parents-to-be should opt for a health care provider they feel comfortable with — taking into account the safety factors each one brings to the table (or not) — and evaluating their credentials,” says Gaither.

And don’t forget, you always have the option of interviewing a provider before you commit, or changing providers partway through your pregnancy.

In addition to a medical doctor or midwife, some parents may choose to have a doula involved in their pregnancy or birth. A doula supports you and your partner during childbirth and can help with positions during labor, breathing, and other comfort measures.

They can also facilitate questions and answers between you and your provider. Some doulas also extend their care to prenatal and postnatal services.

Once reality sets in, it’s time to take a deep breath, relax, and be kind to yourself. Even planned pregnancies can cause emotional ups and downs.

If you have a partner or spouse, your first step is to sit down and have an honest talk. Tell them how you’re feeling. Be up front and honest about any fears, worries, or anxieties you’re having. Chances are, they’re dealing with similar feelings.

At your first prenatal visit, share your feelings with your healthcare provider. They can reassure you that what you’re experiencing is normal, and actually, quite common. You can also lean on close friends and family — especially other parents that have gone through the same situation.

If you’re still feeling uneasy or find that you’re experiencing severe mood swings, anxiety, or bouts of depression, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional. You may be dealing with something more serious than an adjustment period.

It’s easy to hide a baby bump early on in your pregnancy. With that in mind, take advantage of this opportunity, and use this time to determine who needs to know that you’re pregnant.

Sure, we understand, that eventually, the whole world will know (OK, not the entire world, but at least anyone that looks at you), but in general, you have several weeks before this becomes an issue.

When deciding who needs to know, create a short list of people that need to know sooner rather than later. This may include immediate family, other children, close friends, your boss, or co-workers — especially if you’re dealing with nausea, fatigue, or frequent trips to the bathroom while at work.

Some people make it known right after a positive pregnancy test, while others wait until the 12-week appointment. Remember, this is your news to share — there is no right or wrong way to announce a pregnancy, so only do it when you’re ready.

During the early weeks of pregnancy things on the outside may look the same, but a lot is happening on the inside (as you may have guessed thanks to that all-day nausea).

Your baby’s brain, organs, and body parts are beginning to form. You can support this development by taking good care of yourself.

Your body (and baby-to-be) will be changing week to week. Knowing how to identify those changes and learning about what to expect can help ease anxiety and prepare you for each phase of pregnancy.

Books, podcasts, online resources, and magazines are all excellent ways to educate yourself about the next several months. Don’t forget that you want to read about pregnancy, but also the postpartum period and life with a newborn, which involves its own set of challenges.

Podcasts are another hit with newly pregnant people and their partners. Since many of them are free, you can try them out to make sure they have what you’re looking for. If the podcast is offering medical advice, make sure the host has the proper credentials.

Bookstores and libraries are full of pregnancy and postpartum books. Spend some time browsing the selections. Check online reviews and ask friends and family for recommendations. Your doctor or midwife will likely have a list of books they suggest for parents-to-be.

It’s always a good idea to preview the material before you purchase it to make sure it’s a good fit. Along those same lines, you can subscribe to a pregnancy newsletter, follow a pregnancy blog, or join an online forum.

If you’re craving human contact, consider taking a prenatal class. There are classes that focus on exercise, parenting, and childbirth. Some groups meet weekly or bi-weekly just to check in and support each other.

Finding out you’re pregnant, planned or not, is a life-changing event. It’s important to be gentle with yourself and recognize that it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions.

In those first few days and weeks after a positive test, take some time to adjust to the news. Write down any questions or concerns you have and take that list to your first appointment.

Reach out to your spouse, partner, close friend, or family member for support (and maybe to celebrate!). And remember to give yourself time to enjoy this moment as you prepare for the next 9 months and beyond.