Becoming a parent brings joy and change.
Becoming a parent is fun and scary at the same time. Future moms and dads may feel excitement, joy, pride, fear, worry, and insecurity. All of these feelings are normal. This is a very important time for you and your partner. You will need each other’s support and encouragement as you start this new and exciting adventure called parenting.
Having a baby, especially your first, is a time of many changes. Most first time parents don’t know what to expect for the big event — or how the new baby will impact their lives.
- You will need to figure out how to juggle responsibilities of work or school and family.
- Your new baby will bring new joy, but also new pressures and worries. It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed.
You’re not expected to figure everything out overnight. You’re not alone in how you feel. This time of adjustment will pass.
If you are raising your baby alone you will have added pressures on your time and energy.
- The decisions and arrangements you make now will help make parenting a little easier.
- Check for resources and programs for parents in your community — including community centers and churches.
- It is important to build a support network (including friends, family and other parents) to help you be the best parent you can be.
Your first prenatal visit will generally be around 8 weeks after your last menstrual period. See this pregnancy calculator.
- Set up a visit with a doctor. The doctor will find out about your overall health and look into any diseases or medical problems that could affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health. Talk with the doctor about your family’s medical history.
- Check with the doctor about taking prenatal vitamins and folic acid. A future mom can prevent birth defects, such as spinal cord problems, by making sure she has enough folic acid in her diet. Future moms should take folic acid at least 3 months before they began trying to get pregnant. Women need at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day from foods with added folic acid, from a prenatal vitamin, and/or from a folic acid pill.
- Find out your family medical history. Do you or your partner have a family history of genetic diseases, pregnancy-related issues, or medical problems that run in your family? Ask your relatives if you don’t know.
There are lots of medical issues that people worry about once they become pregnant. Be sure to ask your doctor about them. Some questions may be about things your friends or family members have told you like:
- Toxoplasmosis. This is a rare, but serious infection that a baby can get from the mother during pregnancy. People usually get toxoplasmosis by eating raw or undercooked meats, drinking unpasteurized milk, and handling the feces of cats. In newborns, this infection may cause vision or hearing loss, learning disabilities, seizures, or death. The effects on babies are more severe if the mother gets infected early in the pregnancy.
- Having a baby after 35. About 11 percent of babies born in the U.S. each year have moms over the age of 35. Most mothers 35 and older have healthy babies, but some older women have a higher risk of miscarriages, high blood pressure, diabetes, and Down syndrome. It’s important for all women — including those over 35 — to keep regular appointments with their doctor during pregnancy in order to monitor their health.
- Preeclampsia. After 20 weeks of pregnancy — but sometimes earlier — some pregnant women have severe high blood pressure (hypertension). This condition is known as preeclampsia and can be mild or severe. Signs of severe preeclampsia may include sudden and rapid weight gain, blurred vision, severe headaches, nausea and vomiting, and/or intense pain in the upper right abdomen. The most common treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby if it is safe to do so. If the baby has not developed far enough, the mother may be placed on bed rest. There is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia.
- Gestational diabetes. Even women who have no history of diabetes may develop diabetes when they’re pregnant. Your doctor will check for this at your first doctor’s visit. Women who have gestational diabetes are extremely thirsty and hungry, very tired, and have a high blood sugar count on a diabetes test. Doctors can help future moms with this condition and help them have a healthy baby.
For most couples, sex is an important, special part of their relationship. Having sex will not hurt your baby, unless you have been told otherwise by your doctor.
During pregnancy, there are usually changes in your interest in having sex and the pleasure you and your partner get from sex. Nausea, fatigue, vomiting, changes in body shape, and fear of hurting the baby are all things that affect how couples feel about sex during pregnancy.
Some partners might feel jealous because the mother-to-be is getting a lot of attention. These feelings may affect your partner’s sexual interest. You should talk openly and honestly with each other about these feelings.
Remember to keep the lines of communication open about your sex life, as well as other issues. Talking it out can solve problems and bring you closer emotionally. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to give you advice and tell you if there are any medical reasons not to have sex during your pregnancy.
There are some decisions you will have to make regarding your childbirth — including where to deliver your baby. Depending on where you live, you might be able to deliver at a hospital, a birthing center, or in your home. Check with your insurance plan to learn about which hospitals and types of delivery are covered.
How do you want your baby to be born? Taking a childbirth class will help answer questions about giving birth. Childbirth classes may be offered by your hospital, a community agency, or a community college.
Depending on your doctor, you may be able to make some of these decisions:
- Who you want to be in the room with you during labor
- What type of position you want to be in for pushing
- What type of atmosphere you want in the room — like lighting or music
- What you want to eat or drink during labor
- What kinds of medicine you want to use
Visit the hospital before you give birth to get familiar with it and avoid misunderstandings:
- Take a tour of the hospital to find out about their procedures.
- Ask your doctor to tell you about his procedure for a regular delivery.
- Ask questions; don’t be embarrassed that you may not know something about the birth.
When women first get pregnant they might feel like they are riding on an emotional roller coaster. They feel joyful and excited one minute, fearful and anxious the next. These mixed emotions are common.
Future moms might have:
- Mood swings
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Sudden moments of sadness and irritability
- Fear and worry about the pregnancy and becoming a parent
Hormonal changes and physical changes in women’s bodies can cause them to feel tired and touchy. Even though partners are not pregnant and are not having the same hormonal and physical changes, they may have similar feelings. Try to be patient with each other and realize that many couples have the same feelings when they are expecting a baby.
You can deal with these emotional changes by:
- Getting enough rest, eating well, and going to your doctor appointments.
- Talking with someone about your thoughts and feelings to help with tension and stress.
- Exercising, meditating, or doing yoga for pregnant women.