With September the most popular month for births, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), now is the time when many parents-to-be will be finding out they are going to have a baby.
If you’re one of those currently trying to get your head around a positive pregnancy test – congratulations! But now what?
There’s a lot to take in during the first trimester of pregnancy. You’ll probably find out you’re expecting around week four, with a missed period or other early pregnancy symptoms – and there are a few key things you need to fit in before the 12-week mark.
For any mums and dads-to-be looking forward to a new arrival in the autumn, our checklist of essential tasks and tips will help you through these early weeks.
Which? Birth Choice: advice on all your options during pregnancy and birth.
1. Book an appointment with your GP or a midwife
As soon as you can, get in touch with your local maternity unit or doctor’s surgery to register your pregnancy and begin to receive free antenatal care from the NHS.
The first appointment you have with a midwife will be the booking appointment between weeks 8-12.
2. Work out your due date
If you don’t know which day you ovulated, you’ll need to know the first day of your last period and the average length of your menstrual cycle in order to estimate your baby’s due date.
At your booking appointment, the midwife will use these numbers to calculate a due date 40 weeks from the start of your last cycle – and tell you how many weeks pregnant you currently are.
This estimated due date will be confirmed or adjusted at a dating scan between weeks 10 and 14. But do remember, this is just a rough guide – so try not to get too hung up on that day-by-day countdown!
3. Think about where you’d like to give birth
It may seem early to talk about the birth when you’re still getting used to being pregnant, but it’s important to understand your maternity options.
At your booking appointment, your midwife will ask whether you’d prefer to have your baby:
- At home,
- In a hospital labour ward, or
- At a local birth centre.
You can still change your mind about where or how you would like to give birth as your needs or priorities change at any point during pregnancy. However, it’s good to start this conversation early and, with help from your midwife, explore different options.
Use our Where to give birth tool to compare local maternity options and find the one that’s right for you.
4. Get a maternity exemption certificate
During pregnancy and for 12 months after you’ve given birth, you’re entitled to free NHS dental treatment.
Mums-to-be living in England can also get free prescriptions during this period (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free for everyone).
Simply ask your midwife or doctor to provide and sign the necessary form that gets you a maternity exemption certificate or card (MatEx) which you can show to the dentist or pharmacist.
- Find out more about benefits and financial support available to pregnant women and new parents.
5. Make a budget
Financial admin may not be high on your ’fun things to do’ list, but it’s important to plan for the costs you’ll incur during pregnancy – and for changes to your finances once your baby arrives.
Even if you’re starting from scratch, creating a budget doesn’t need to be torture. We simplify the whole process for parents-to-be with this step-by-step guide to creating a family budget.
6. Take folic acid tablets
If you haven’t already started taking folic acid in preparation for pregnancy, now’s the time to add this vitamin supplement to your routine. Folic acid is particularly important in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, as your baby starts to grow and develop.
Other vitamins and minerals which are important for your baby’s development – but which can often be provided by a healthy diet – include iron, vitamin D, vitamin C and calcium.
7. Get to know the dos and don’ts
Whether your pregnancy cravings have kicked in early, or you are finding it hard to stomach the thought of eating much of anything, it’s a good idea to recognise the foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, as they carry a risk of infection or illness for you and your baby.
- Limit tuna and oily fish – such as salmon, mackerel and herring – to two portions a week.
- Eggs are fine (even with runny yolks) as long as they have a British Lion stamp, showing they’ve been produced under the food safety standard.
- Watch your consumption of caffeine – try to stay under 200mg a day – which equates to approximately one coffee, a can of cola and a small bar of chocolate.
It is also recommended that expectant mothers stop drinking alcohol and quit smoking as soon as possible after finding out you are expecting. This is because alcohol and the chemicals in cigarette smoke pass to your baby in the womb, which can affect their growth and development.
If you need help quitting, speak to your midwife or doctor to find out what support is available to you.
8. Practise your pelvic floor exercises
Strengthening the muscles around your bladder, vagina and bowels will help during labour and in your recovery after birth, including reducing your chance of experiencing incontinence. So if you’re not familiar with pelvic floor exercises already, now’s the time to get acquainted.
You should be practising pelvic floor exercises every day – and they can be done at any time, anywhere. Try doing a few while waiting for the kettle to boil on when brushing your teeth, so it becomes part of your daily routine.
9. Plan for trimester two…
Your second trimester starts in week 13 and the months that follow will be action-packed with appointments and ultrasound scans, pregnancy announcements and preparations for your baby’s arrival.
Read our guide to the next stage and use our trimester two checklist to tick off all the essentials in the weeks ahead.
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