Updated April 2024 | 5 min read
Expert contributor Dr Wendy Burton, Chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Antenatal/Postnatal Specific Interest Group
Words by Karen Burge

When you find out you’re pregnant, there’s a lot of information to take in. Here are a few things you may need to know during those early stages of pregnancy. 

The early stages of pregnancy can cause a range of emotions. You might feel nervously excited, complete joy or a little daunted about the road ahead. If you’ve previously had problems carrying a pregnancy to full term, you may be cautiously optimistic during your first trimester. If your pregnancy is unplanned, it could be a challenging time.

According to BetterHealth, some early signs of pregnancy can include: 

  • a missed period 
  • nausea and vomiting 
  • breast tenderness and enlargement 
  • fatigue 
  • food cravings  
  • frequent urination.

While some women quickly share their news with family and friends, others prefer to wait until around the 12-week mark. One reason that many women wait is that up to one in five women who know they're pregnant will have a miscarriage before 20 weeks, the Royal Women's Hospital explains. In most cases, this will happen in the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy.  

That said, how and when you spread the word is for you to decide. 

After you’ve had a chance for the news to sink in, here are a few things that you may start thinking about and some tips for the early stages of pregnancy. 

See your GP in the early stages of pregnancy

Visit your GP as early as is practical, advises GP Dr Wendy Burton, chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Antenatal/Postnatal Specific Interests Group. If you don’t have a regular GP, now may be the time to decide who you'd like to help you through this big and important journey. 

“Early review allows a GP to assess any risk factors for [the mother] or the child, to discuss recommended testing and her wishes regarding how she wants to proceed with her pregnancy care,” Dr Burton explains. “Popular obstetricians and high demand public models of care require early referral.”

You’ll also have blood tests and scans and discuss the various models of care in your local area. Dr Burton adds that if your pregnancy is unwanted, your doctor can discuss your options.

If it’s your first time around, you’ll need to learn about the different care options available, where and how you'd like to give birth, and whether you want public or private maternity services. The decision you make will influence who you see during your antenatal checks.

Most women have uncomplicated pregnancies, so generally you’ll have between eight and 10 antenatal appointments during your pregnancy, explains the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“Some women might have more complicated or high-risk pregnancies, meaning there's a risk that their health might be affected by the pregnancy or there's a risk to their baby. These women may require additional antenatal visits and testing to monitor the health and wellbeing of both mother and baby.”

Learn more about antenatal care during pregnancy

After deciding what care you’d like, you might want to consider booking in for antenatal classes. 

Tips for early stages of pregnancy

In the early days of pregnancy, there are some steps you can take that may improve the health of you and your baby.  

According to The Royal Women’s Hospital, pregnant women should:

  • take folate in the weeks before and up to three months after you get pregnant
  • eat a variety of healthy foods, including lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals
  • take part in regular light to moderate exercise (like walking, swimming and stationary cycling)
  • avoid high-impact exercise and exercise with a risk of falling, getting hit in the stomach, overheating or suddenly changing position
  • rest and try to get enough sleep
  • have regular check-ups throughout your pregnancy
  • contact your healthcare provider as soon as you feel something is wrong.

Consider taking antenatal classes

Whatever your birth philosophy, there are courses and workshops to support you through the experience. Antenatal classes are being delivered in new and innovative ways, from free public hospital-based weekly courses to private seminars, weekend workshops and online courses like Birth Beat.

HCF helps parents through pregnancy, birth and their early parenting journey with access to Birth Beat*, an online childbirth education course delivered by a registered midwife and HCF-recognised childbirth educator. The program helps you feel prepared with evidence-based information to access at any time, from the comfort of your home.

Talk to your midwife, obstetrician, GP, maternity service and other mums about recommended pregnancy and childbirth education providers. If you’ve been through this before, you might want a refresher or a more targeted program or course.

It’s also a good idea to book in a tour of where you'd like to give birth.

Managing work life

Melbourne mum Sarah wanted reassurance from her 12-week scan before letting her workplace know she was pregnant. However, she was so ill with morning sickness that it was a struggle.

“I had a supportive manager who could tell I was at my desk looking a little green. I was throwing up a lot and feeling really tired,” she explains. “We ended up chatting about my pregnancy earlier than I’d planned but it meant I had a bit of breathing space and didn’t have to hide how unwell I was feeling. I told my colleagues a little further down the track.”

It’s entirely up to you when you tell your employer, however, Fair Work Australia explains that you need to give at least 10 weeks’ notice before starting your parental leave and to confirm your parental leave dates at least four weeks before your leave starts.

While employers can’t discriminate against you for being pregnant, workplaces across Australia do vary in terms of the family-friendly options and policies available. 

According to UNICEF Australia, there are six measures you can use to benchmark a workplace in terms of how family-friendly they are.

  • Flexible work.
  • Parental leave.
  • Family care.
  • Family wellbeing.
  • Leadership culture.
  • How these policies are measured.

Pregnancy and your mental health

Even though the early stages of pregnancy can be a happy time, it can also bring worry. Feeling your baby move can be an amazing experience, however when bub is a little quiet, many mums-to-be might be concerned. This can particularly be an issue if you’ve experienced loss before or its your first pregnancy.

Pregnancy hormones can make you feel emotional, tiredness can kick in, juggling work or other young children can be challenging, and you have medical appointments to attend. 

If you're struggling and need to speak to someone now, you can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

As Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, HCF offers a range of health programs for families to support your pregnancy health and mental wellbeing. Just as you’d schedule in regular check-ups for your physical health during pregnancy, a mental health check-up can provide an opportunity to express your concerns and connect you with appropriate support tailored to your needs. HCF’s HealthyMinds Check-in^ gives eligible members fast and easy access to an annual telehealth consultation with a PSYCH2U psychologist, who can refer you for further assistance and treatment.

Cover for your growing family

We're here to help you and your loved ones every step of the way. Explore our cover options and find out about programs to support the whole family's health.

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* A 2 month waiting period applies and depends on annual limits. Before you start any program, check you’re on eligible cover and the provider of the program is recognised by us. If you’re unsure, call 13 13 34 or visit a branch.   

^ 1 HealthyMinds Check-in available per member per calendar year. Service is available free to all members with hospital cover. Excludes extras only cover, Ambulance Only, Accident Only Basic and Overseas Visitors Health Cover. 

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