Navigating an Unplanned Pregnancy: A Guide for Expectant Parents

Finding out you’re pregnant can range from a lifelong dream-come-true to a wildly unexpected surprise. Planned and unplanned pregnancies happen every day, all around the world. Some pregnancies result from meticulous family planning; others from contraceptive failure or improper use of birth control. Many women feel unprepared for pregnancy, even a planned one. And that’s okay–it’s a new season and a big transition. Even so, it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. You can take charge of your pregnancy in a positive way by learning more about having a healthy pregnancy. 

Finding Out You’re Pregnant

Let’s start with the basics. How do you know you’re pregnant? Many women, upon experiencing signs and symptoms of pregnancy, take a urine pregnancy test at home. While this test can identify the presence of the hCG hormone in your system (hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced primarily by cells of the placenta during pregnancy), medical confirmation of pregnancy via ultrasound provides the rest of the information you need. (We will get to what that information is in a little bit.) First, let’s talk about common pregnancy symptoms.

Pregnancy symptoms can differ for everyone, but there are some common ones to be familiar with. These include: 

  • A missed period! This is probably the most common indicator that you could be pregnant, unless you already experience irregular menstrual cycles. You should also know that emergency contraception, such as Plan B, can affect the regularity of your cycle. 
  • Swollen and/or tender breasts 
  • Nausea (with or without vomiting)
  • Increased urination 
  • Fatigue 
  • Mood changes 
  • Backache 
  • Headache 
  • Various food cravings 
  • Bloating 

Like we said, symptoms aren’t the same for everyone. Some women experience “morning sickness” all day long; others don’t experience it at all. Intensity of symptoms can vary, and some may even experience a light period or spotting. However, if you think you may be pregnant, it’s best to find out so you can begin your prenatal care journey.

Pregnancy Confirmation

Whether you’ve taken a pregnancy test at home or not, it’s important to confirm your pregnancy. An early ultrasound is the best way to do this. While a pregnancy test shows that pregnancy hormones are present in your body, an ultrasound can help you determine 1) the viability of your pregnancy, 2) the location of your pregnancy, and 3) the gestational age of your pregnancy. 

If you’re thinking, I don’t even know what all those words mean, we got you! 

Viability means your pregnancy is capable of developing under normal conditions. One out of every five known pregnancies (around 20%) ends on its own in miscarriage. The actual number is likely higher because many miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy — before a person might even know she is pregnant (1). Even though you may test positive for pregnancy, you still need to make sure your pregnancy is viable, and an ultrasound will help with that. 

The location of your pregnancy matters because a pregnancy must develop inside the uterus to survive. If a pregnancy implants anywhere else (for example, a fallopian tube), it cannot survive and can be extremely dangerous for the pregnant woman. This is called an ectopic pregnancy and requires emergency medical attention. If a gestational sac or fetal pole can be identified inside the uterus, the likelihood of there being an ectopic pregnancy is much lower. 

Lastly, the gestational age of your pregnancy refers to how far along in your pregnancy you are. Prenatal care providers measure gestational age in weeks starting from the first day of your last menstrual period. Each trimester, new milestones are reached, and your provider can help you learn how to take care of yourself in each unique stage. (Please note: If you are considering pregnancy termination, gestational age is an essential piece of information to know what types of abortion are available to you. While we do not provide, prescribe, or refer for abortions, our team of registered nurses can provide you with information on the abortion process and your pregnancy options to help you make an informed choice.) 

At Clearway Clinic, we offer free appointments to confirm your pregnancy via ultrasound. This is a great first step for your prenatal care journey! Schedule your appointment today. 

Finding a Prenatal Care Provider

Prenatal care is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. At each prenatal care visit, your health care provider checks on you and your growing pregnancy. You have a few options for prenatal care providers:

  1. An obstetrician/gynecologist (also called OB/GYN): This is a doctor who has education and training to take care of pregnant women and deliver babies. 
  2. A family practice doctor (also called a family physician): This is a doctor who can take care of every member of your family. This doctor can take care of you before, during, and after pregnancy. 
  3. A certified nurse midwife (also called CNM): This is a nurse with education and training to take care of women of all ages, including pregnant women.
  4. A maternal-fetal medicine specialist (also called MFM): This is an OB with education and training to take care of women who have high-risk pregnancies. 

If you’re planning to become pregnant, you should contact any of the above for prenatal care which will get you started on the right path to having a healthy pregnancy. Your initial appointment is typically scheduled between the eighth and twelfth week from your last menstrual period. If this pregnancy was unplanned, you will still want to get your first prenatal appointment scheduled as soon as you can. 

The time between finding out you’re pregnant and your first appointment can feel impossibly long, especially if you feel unsure that you want to continue this pregnancy and would like to talk to somebody. That is exactly why Clearway exists. We’re here to support you in the earliest moments, when you find yourself pregnant and need answers. We can see you as early as 6 weeks from your last period. You will receive important information which will equip you to make informed, empowered decisions in regards to your pregnancy.

If you don’t have insurance, don’t worry! Clearway does not require any insurance or payment for our services. Your insurance and/or socioeconomic status should not prevent you from accessing the information and services you need. We can also direct you to agencies that can help you obtain health insurance. (The positive pregnancy verification letter we provide will help to expedite the process.) Once you have your insurance secured, we can also provide referrals for a doctor. We care that you can access the care you need, and we are here to help you get there!

Prenatal Education Classes

You can also invest in your reproductive health and pregnancy journey by taking our (free!) prenatal education classes! 

During your initial appointment at Clearway, our registered nurses will begin educating you on various aspects of a healthy pregnancy. This includes learning about prenatal vitamins, substances to avoid, expectations for each trimester, and other ways to care for yourself during pregnancy. After your initial consultation, we can provide prenatal health education classes to help you prepare for your baby’s arrival. 

At Clearway, we offer these classes every month, taught by an experienced OB nurse. The first class we offer is in labor and delivery. In this class, you will learn about the birthing process, as well as how to create a birth plan so that you can feel confident and prepared about the birth of your baby. The second class is in newborn care. This class will help you prepare for what to expect after delivery. It will touch upon care for the mother postpartum along with learning about tending to the needs of your newborn baby. 

These classes are offered individually or in a small group setting and taught with a personal approach. This is so that you can have lots of space to ask questions and learn from others. We encourage our clients to take these classes as you prepare for the transition to parenthood. We also encourage partners/fathers to attend! Prepare together for your parenting journey.

So what should someone do if they find out they are unexpectedly pregnant? If you are currently facing an unplanned pregnancy, get started by scheduling your pregnancy confirmation appointment today. Confirm the gestational age and viability of your pregnancy, and learn more about the options and resources available to you.

Reviewed by Lisa D., MSN RN


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