The most common way to realise you are pregnant is to miss a period. Sometimes, the onset of morning sickness is the first clue. At other times, women have been carefully tracking their cycle and have the earliest testing day circled on the calendar. Whatever your situation, once you suspect you are pregnant, these are the next steps.
1. Take a home pregnancy test
The quickest way to confirm your suspicions is to take a home pregnancy test. This is the simple “pee on a stick” test familiar from TV and the movies. You can buy a home pregnancy test at any pharmacy and most big supermarkets.
There was a scare in 2017 when several home test kits available in Australia were found to be unreliable. However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration reviewed all home pregnancy tests and the inaccurate ones were withdrawn. The tests that remain on sale in Australia have all been shown to be reliable. Word of warning though – tests purchased off the internet may be from overseas and may not have been rigorously checked. It’s probably safest to buy your test locally.
Most home tests are designed to work from the time of a missed period. It is possible to take the test too early – for example, if you have an irregular cycle. If your period doesn’t arrive within a few days or you have other symptoms, see your GP for a pregnancy blood test.
2. Make sure to take folic acid
Ideally, you started taking folic acid before you even started trying to conceive. In this case, keep up the good work! If you haven’t been taking folic acid, start as soon as you know you are pregnant.
Most women just need a folic acid supplement from the local pharmacy. However, some women need a higher dose than usual. If you have diabetes, epilepsy, serious bowel disease or a personal/family history of neural tube defects or congenital cardiac abnormalities, please discuss the best folic acid dose with your doctor.
3. Make an appointment with your GP
Once you are pregnant, your GP should always be your first port of call. Your GP may do a number of things:
- Request a formal pregnancy test. This is a simple blood test to check the level of the pregnancy hormone “human chorionic gonadotrophin.” HCG is produced by the developing placenta, so a positive test confirms you are pregnant. Be aware there is a big variation in HCG levels during early pregnancy, so don’t rely on this test to estimate how many weeks you are. Sometimes repeat tests are used if we suspect early pregnancy problems.
- Send you for your antenatal “booking” bloods. This is a standard set of blood tests recommended for every pregnant woman in Australia. I’ll write a post explaining the booking bloods at a later date – there is too much to go through here. They are really important tests though, so have them done as soon as possible!
- Arrange a dating scan. This scan confirms your due date, checks the pregnancy is in the right location and identifies surprises such as twins. We usually aim to do this scan around 7-10 weeks.
- Write you a referral for antenatal care. Remember, if you will be seeing a private obstetrician during your pregnancy, your GP needs to write a referral. This is a requirement for Medicare.
4. Choose your obstetrician and hospital
Contact your chosen obstetrician’s rooms as early as possible and make an appointment for your first visit. Your obstetrician’s office will need time to collate your test results and any other important information ahead of your appointment. This is particularly important if you have any other health problems.