An unplanned pregnancy can be quite a shock, but there’s no reason to panic. You’re not alone. Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are surprises.
Here are the first five steps you should take.
1. Call your primary care doctor or ob/gyn and make an appointment. “It’s important to see your doctor so she can figure out how far along your pregnancy is. That helps determine your care and next steps,” says Maureen Phipps, MD, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island.
If you don’t know how long it’s been since you had your last period, be sure to tell the doctor’s office that. Also let them know if you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, or if you have a health condition like diabetes or depression. If so, your doctor may want to see you right away, or may refer you to a specialist.
2. If you’re not doing so already, start taking a prenatal vitamin that has 400 mcg of folic acid right away. “Folic acid reduces the risk of brain, spine, and spinal cord defects in babies. In order for folic acid to work, you want to have it in your system before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy,” says Siobhan Dolan, MD. Dolan is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
3. If you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use drugs, stop right away. All three can be harmful to your baby.
4. Take good care of yourself. If you weren’t expecting to get pregnant, you may feel stressed or depressed. If you do, talk to your doctor or another health professional, such as a psychologist or social worker. Eat healthy and drink lots of water to help keep your energy up.
5. Steer clear of things that can put your pregnancy at risk, including:
- Cat litter (cat feces can give you a dangerous infection called toxoplasmosis)
- Raw meat
- Unpasteurized foods
- Seafood that’s high in mercury, including tuna, swordfish, and shark