What to expect during pregnancy

So, you’re having a baby? Congratulations! In just a few short months, life as you know it will never be the same again.

Your body, relationships and emotions are all likely to change – and that’s before the baby even arrives.

Finding out you’re pregnant

There’s no right or wrong way to feel when you find out that you’re pregnant – everyone’s different, and your reactions and emotions will depend on you and your situation. Many people feel joy and excitement at the news, while for others, these happy emotions are mixed with worry. For couples who have had long-term fertility problems, becoming pregnant is often a dream come true. And while it’s a joyful part of what’s usually a long emotional journey, this may be mixed with some feelings of fear or apprehension.

Parents who are expecting twins or triplets are also likely to experience a wide range of emotions during the pregnancy. For others, finding out about a pregnancy that was unplanned can be a big shock, particularly if it happens during a stressful time, you’re on your own, a young parent or just not quite ready.

I cried, I did not want twins. Not ready for two babies. Unplanned pregnancy, let alone twins. Not sure if I will be able to cope as a mother of twins. The financial worries are overwhelming, the change of lifestyle frightening.

Adjusting to change

'Will I lose my independence?’ ‘How will I figure things out at work?’ ‘What sort of parent will I be?’ If you’re asking yourself these and other questions, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

It’s really common for both parents to experience a wide range of emotions during pregnancy, from joy and excitement to fear and worry. Negotiating new working arrangements, added responsibilities and preparing for a different financial situation can all make this a complicated and potentially stressful time.

You might feel a pang of uncertainty when you think about how your relationships or lifestyle might change with the baby’s arrival. These mixed emotions and doubts are normal, as are occasional negative thoughts or dreams – it doesn’t mean the baby is unwanted or that you’re not ready.

Pregnancy can also be a time when you reevaluate what’s important in your life or reflect on your relationship with your own parents. You might find yourself dealing with unresolved issues or feelings from your childhood that you’ve buried away.

If you’ve experienced historical or intergenerational trauma as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, having kids of your own can be a time when these challenges become even stronger and harder to deal with.

All of this can make for an emotional time. Go easy on yourself – it can be a lot to deal with – and take extra care of your physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual wellbeing.

Common concerns you might have during pregnancy may include:

  • Is this the right time for me to have a baby?
  • Will I/we be good parents?
  • Can I/we afford a child?
  • How will I cope with childbirth?
  • Will I have a healthy baby?
  • What will it be like to have a baby?
  • How will I/we cope with twins?
  • How will this affect our relationship and lifestyle?

For women, having to change your diet, starting to look different, craving certain types of food, becoming tired more easily, feeling uncomfortable and nauseous are some of the often-talked-about changes pregnancy can bring – and some of the more obvious. These physical changes can have a big impact on your mood and feelings about being pregnant. Many of these symptoms and feelings resolve themselves in the second trimester.

Preparing for parenthood

As well as sorting out practical stuff like a pram or clothes for the baby, part of preparing is about making sure you’re as informed as you can be about what’s going on. It’s also important to take care of yourself and your partner.

Family members and friends with kids can be a great information source – after all, they’ve been there, done that. Be aware that people can have strong opinions based on their own experiences and that everyone’s different, so make sure you get a range of views if you can. 

Likewise, parenting books, blogs and websites can be helpful, but it’s important to check who’s writing – are they qualified, and does what they’re saying make sense?

Other helpful ways to prepare include:

  • Develop a network of parents who are also pregnant or who have children of a similar age. Antenatal classes are a good way of meeting people in a similar situation, or ask your maternal and child health nurse about groups in your area.
  • Be aware of your expectations about pregnancy, birth and becoming a parent – be conscious that sometimes expectations don’t meet reality, and that’s okay.
  • Think about who might be able to support you if you need it – this can include friends, family, health professionals or community Elders.
  • While preparation is important, it’s also good to remember that you can’t prepare for everything and some things that happen to us are beyond our control. Like unexpected physical health complications such as high blood pressure, mental health issues can happen to anyone during pregnancy. Talking about your feelings can be the first step towards feeling better.

Maintaining culture and connections

Local health services and community groups may be able to help with traditional practices and continuing rituals around pregnancy and birth. Some hospitals also provide culturally sensitive birth services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families, as well as families from other cultural backgrounds. These can help by linking you with support, care and advice. Check with your local services about what’s available in your area, and be clear about what you need to happen during and after the birth.

It’s important to ensure you have enough support during labour – if your community views giving birth as ‘women’s business’, this might include a female Elder, Aunty or relative, or someone from your community.    

Talking things through

If you’re feeling confused or unhappy, talk to someone you trust about your feelings. You can also speak to your general practitioner (GP) or obstetrician about a referral to a counsellor – it’s helpful to share your concerns and talk things through.  

Find out about support options

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