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So you just found out you're pregnant, here's exactly what you need to do now...

The next steps.

Finding out you're pregnant can send your brain into total overdrive. O...M...G. Did I read that right? I'm not just imagining that other line, am I? Sh*t, is this actually happening? Is this real life? This is amazing... and terrifying... and wait, what the hell do I know now?

After the news has sunk in (and you've celebrated, of course), it's not always clear what your next steps should be. We asked Dr AlBendar, medical scientist and founder of The Womb Effect, to talk us through it.

"Small changes during pregnancy can be crucial at all stages of development and can have a profound effect on life after birth," she says. "Here is a brief checklist on what you need to do":

Contact your doctor or midwife as soon as possible

Get in touch with your doctor or midwife as a priority step to start with your antenatal care. The NHS website has a practical to-do list to get you on the right track.

Eat nourishing foods and start taking essential supplements

During pregnancy, your nutritional intake should be at optimal levels and not necessarily eating for two in terms of quantity but quality.

A well-balanced pregnancy diet includes vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, seafood, eggs, poultry, nuts, beans, pulses, seeds and healthy fats just to make sure you are consuming certain nutrients you need, like vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, iodine and many others.

Here are some of the essentials:

  • Omega3s:
  • Folate (B9):
  • Choline:
  • Vitamin D:
  • Prebiotics and probiotics:

Change harmful lifestyle habits

In addition to the classic recommendations of giving up smoking and alcohol, caffeine is another habit that should be avoided.

Although pregnant women are typically advised not to consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine (2 cups of coffee a day), several studies are urging the current recommendations to be re-evaluated as no amount of caffeine has been found to be risk-free during pregnancy.

Caffeine readily crosses the placenta to the developing foetus which generally lack the enzymes that are required to metabolise it; thus, babies can be affected heavily by it.

Caffeine sources include coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks, green tea, black tea and some over the counter medications.

Stay fit

Exercising regularly during pregnancy is important, as sedentary behaviours have been shown to elevate the risk of high blood pressure, caesarean sections, lower back pain, greater weight gain as well as gestational diabetes.

Exercise while pregnant also appears to alter the future health of the unborn baby in terms of cardiac function, body fat and physical coordination.

Take care of your emotional and mental health

Pregnancy is one of the most important events in a woman's life. Although it is often portrayed as a time of great joy, it is often not the case. In fact, it can be very emotional and a lot of women tend to be more susceptible to antenatal anxiety.

There is a growing body of literature that indicates that depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy. This is exacerbated if women are exposed to high levels of trauma, leaving them especially vulnerable to mental illness.

1 in 10 women will be experiencing either anxiety or depression at some point and many will experience both. 1 in 20 men will experience antenatal depression too. 15-20% of women may also carry on to be depressed or anxious in the first year after childbirth.

High levels of anxiety and stress during pregnancy, if not properly managed and controlled, may have long-term and sometimes irreparable adverse effects on mother and baby.

Talk to your GP if you are currently experiencing psychological distress while pregnant. Modification in lifestyle and psychological therapies can also help a lot. The earlier, the better.

This originally appeared on GLAMOUR UK | Bianca London

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