Unplanned Pregnancy? Self-Care Tips for the Surprised Mom (on a budget)

“Unplanned” is the origin story of half the pregnancies out there. Family planning, birth control, contraception–sometimes even when preventative practices are employed, things happen. Surprise pregnancies occur every day, and a whole range of emotional reactions are possible. Whatever you feel, know that this is an important moment to show your body and soul some love. Self-care is a practice that can help you process, survive, and even thrive in the early stages of your unplanned pregnancy.

The internet is full of ideas, advice, and (expensive) products for your self-care. Sometimes, self-care can feel like just one more task to add to your daily to-do list. One more purchase to make at the end of the week. And when your body is going through all that pregnancy is, one more thing might feel like one thing too many. It would be easier to just do everything the same as always, to power through your early pregnancy days. 

But that’s not the point of self-care! Self-care doesn’t have to mean facials, nail appointments, pilates classes, massages, retail therapy, and a long list of other expensive activities. Of course, if that’s what self-care means for you, go for it! No one’s here to stop you. But if your version of self-care doesn’t look like this–or if your budget doesn’t allow it to–don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to care for yourself that are free or inexpensive that you can use to support your body as it begins the process of sustaining another life. 

In this blog, we want to offer you:

  1. Some mental/emotional self-care practices
  2. Some free options and techniques to support yourself through unexpected pregnancy
  3. Some products/services you can buy (if spending money is an option for you) that will hopefully fit within your budget

Remember: this is not a to-do list. If none of these options work for you, that’s okay. If it’s just one, then just do that one. There’s no pressure to perform when it comes to self-care, and there’s no need to compare yourself to anyone else either. Your journey is your own. So now that the pressure’s off, let’s get into it!

Unexpected Pregnancy: Caring for Your Mental & Emotional Well-Being

Depending on your circumstances, personality, and various other factors, an unplanned pregnancy can feel anywhere from inconvenient to devastating. Making decisions related to an unintended pregnancy can be even more overwhelming. A few practices that center around your mental and emotional health can stabilize you no matter how you are processing the news. 

Know that this doesn’t define you.

An unplanned pregnancy can feel like a lot of things. It can feel like a failure, a mistake, a point of shame. It can send some into a state of psychological distress.

For some, an unplanned pregnancy might come after multiple planned pregnancies, in the context of a stable and loving home. An “oops” baby that we will receive with love.

For others, it might be in the wake of financial instability.

An unhealthy relationship.

During an expensive and long-dreamed of education.

In the midst of a strict religious community. In the face of a worrisome health diagnosis.

Or maybe, any combination of these and other factors.

An unplanned pregnancy can feel like a definitive moment in your life, and in some ways, it is. The decision between abortion, adoption, and parenting is a real one. The prospect of raising a child is lifelong. But at the same time–you are you. You are still you with or without a life growing inside you. This moment doesn’t define your identity. If you were strong and tenacious before, you still are! And your tenacity can carry you through this moment. If you were fun and outgoing, you’re still the life of the party! This pregnancy doesn’t change that. Maybe it will alter some of your circumstances for a season, but who you are is still someone who brings laughter and joy into every room you enter. 

So remember: this unplanned pregnancy may present unexpected challenges, but you’re still you. Take the Pregnancy Clarity Quiz to learn more about how your pregnancy might impact your unique personality. 

Don’t compare yourself to others.

There’s a wise old expression that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Let me tell you–that is the truth! In our social media age, we compare as naturally as we breathe. Pregnancy and motherhood are spaces that seem to suffer even more intense comparison and criticism. 

“My baby slept through the night at two months old! Are you sure your baby is okay?” 

“Well, I never got stretch marks when I was pregnant.” 

“I never had a miscarriage–I think it’s because I was so careful to do everything my doctor told me.” 

“My child only gets 15 minutes of screen time a day. You know, screens ruin their brains.” 

Then on Instagram and TikTok and Facebook, what do we see? Fitness influencers doing deadlifts and squats a week past their due date.

Young moms with flat abs and beige mansions meal-prepping locally-sourced vegan meals for their three kids and husband on a Sunday afternoon.

Pregnancy photoshoots, newborn photoshoots, first birthday photoshoots where everyone looks glowing and fit and smiley.

It can make your own pregnancy and mothering feel like one gigantic hot mess. And it’s exhausting! It’s so draining to constantly compare yourself to wildly unrealistic expectations. 

But in reality, no one’s body is the same, no one’s pregnancy is the same, no one’s family is the same. We’re all doing our best out here. Social media is the highlight reel, not behind the scenes footage. 

So remind yourself: 

I am enough. 

My story is precious.

My life is beautiful.

Create some “me” time – do something you love to do.

This is a tricky one, because the overachievers among us might see this as a call to completely revamp their whole routine to support this new pregnancy! But “me time” isn’t a call to change your whole life into a sequence of massages and OB/GYN visits. It is, however, an opportunity to look at your daily schedule and see if there’s a space in there to give yourself a moment of love. If you already have other kids, we know–that may feel impossible. But maybe it’s a few minutes before they wake up or after they go to sleep. The point is–you matter for your baby. Since this pregnancy is growing inside you, taking care of yourself helps create the best environment possible for the little one to grow inside. 

Ways to Support Yourself During Unplanned Pregnancy that are Helpful (and Free!)

Get quality rest.

This is a simple thing to say, but much harder to actually do. Expecting moms often have jobs, families, school, other kids, and to-do lists a mile long. But remember–you matter just as much as the million responsibilities you have! 

If you are able to build some extra sleep into your schedule, that’s an awesome thing to do. Your body is in the process of nourishing a whole new life besides yours–it’s going to be tired! If sleeping more isn’t an option, there are other ways to make your routine more restful. For example, you can put your phone into airplane mode 30 minutes before you go to bed, and not turn it on again until after you finish your morning routine the next day. This gives your brain time to decompress without being stimulated or distracted. It can help you organize your thoughts, sleep without being interrupted, and have some soul rest that might be more needed than you realize. Maybe one day a week, you can wait to turn your phone on until after lunch. These small practices help us detox, reduce anxiety, and remember to care for our own soul health. 

Make a budget.  

Creating a new baby budget is a practical step to give you peace of mind when welcoming a surprise little one into your family. Often, financial concerns are some of the highest on the list of worries that come with an unplanned pregnancy. Many women choose abortion for this very reason. But the thing is, when we look at it, we may realize that we have access to more resources than we realize. It’s all about how we organize them. How to Financially Prepare for an Unexpected Baby will give you some great steps to assess your financial situation. Once you know how much money you really have, that can help you know how best to use it! 

There are also various resources that you can access to support your budget with the new baby. These include: 

  • WIC is a special supplemental nutrition program for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, as well as children under the age of 5 who are nutritionally at risk. Learn how to apply today! 
  • Food pantries are another great resource. Many local churches host food pantries for their community, where food, diapers, and other household supplies are provided for reduced costs and/or no cost at all. One such example in Western Massachusetts is the food pantry at First Baptist Church in Amherst, open every Wednesday from 2-4PM. 
  • Bethlehem House is a nonprofit in Western Mass that has various baby supplies and other pregnancy resources available for you. Call us at 508-438-0144 if you are in need of material support, and we will do our best to connect you to local resources available. 

“Snuggle up.” (1)

This is a fun one! Hugging is super good for us. It releases happy hormones in our bodies, and it benefits our health overall. If you have a partner, children, or other family members who you live with, try to hug them more! Cuddle your kiddos; watch a cozy movie with your partner. Not everyone lives with their loved ones, but luckily, there are other huggable options. Such as… your pets! If you have a dog, kitten, or rabbit, snuggle up with those little guys. 

Challenge yourself to find ways to incorporate even one more hug a day into your daily routine, whether from a friend or pet or family member. Your body and mind will thank you. 

Hugging, cuddling, and snuggling all release happy hormones in our bodies and lower stress levels!

Price Breakdown: Affordable Pregnancy Products & Services

The marketing industry screams at you to buy a thousand different products each day– “must haves” for your first, second, and third pregnancy, how could you live without them? The good news is, people had babies for generations before any of these products ever existed. So do you need to buy everything? No, absolutely not. However, if you have the flexibility in your budget, it can be helpful to treat yourself to some products and items to make pregnancy and motherhood easier for you. 

Here are a few helpful products and services for your pregnancy: 

  • Prenatal vitamins: Taking prenatal vitamins offers you LOTS of benefits. These include reducing the risk of 1) birth defects, 2) premature birth, 3) low birth weight, and 4) preeclampsia, among other benefits (2). Prenatal vitamins can be accessed either over-the-counter or with a prescription from your medical provider, though prescribed prenatal vitamins will be more expensive. Most women do well with over-the-counter options, but if you have a history of miscarriage or other issues with previous pregnancies, talk to your doctor about options with higher levels of folic acid.  
  • Stretch mark creams: The cost of such products can range anywhere from $10 to $50, but having some type of cream can help you both with comfort and scarring. As your belly stretches more through each trimester, many women experience intense itchiness. Keeping your skin moisturized is better than constantly scratching. Many people think that scratching during pregnancy causes stretch marks. While this belief is not necessarily backed by research, staying moisturized can help reduce the itchiness and show some love to your skin. 
  • Pregnancy pillow: These range from $40 to $100, depending on the quality and brand. Still, a full-body pregnancy pillow can be a nice splurge (or gift to ask for!) to make sleeping more comfortable for you during pregnancy. Quality rest matters!
  • Prenatal massage therapist: Research has shown that prenatal massage therapy can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, relieve muscle and joint pain, and improve labor and newborn health (3). Prenatal massages reduce stress hormones, improving mood regulation and cardiovascular health. These are more expensive services to pursue, costing anywhere from $60 to over $100 per session. Contact your insurance provider to find out if they will help you pay for prenatal massage services.
Using a pregnancy pillow is a great way to sleep more comfortably when pregnant!

Self-Care is Prenatal Care

Your well-being is so important to the wellness of your growing baby. Even if this pregnancy was unplanned, that doesn’t mean it won’t turn out to be a tremendous blessing. As one gynecologist put it, “A high percentage of pregnancies that begin as unplanned pregnancies become wanted pregnancies once the parent(s) have time to process the information” (4). Take care of yourself, love your body for all it can do, and take this journey step by step. 

If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and considering your options, Clearway Clinic is here for you. Schedule an appointment today for a free pregnancy test, ultrasound, and options information. Call us at 508-438-0144 to speak to one of our staff members. We are here for you no matter where your pregnancy journey takes you.

Reviewed by Lynn B., BSN, RN

  1. Tip taken from https://www.adoptionchoicesofnevada.org/self-care-during-your-unplanned-pregnancy/.
  2. See https://bumpboxes.com/blog/post/benefits-of-prenatal-vitamins for more info.
  3. See https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/prenatal-massage/ for more info.
  4. Felice Gersh, MD, https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex/surprise-pregnancy#process-emotions.

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