Realising that you’re ‘suddenly pregnant’ can be a big shock

For those of us who knew we were pregnant from the very early weeks, it can be hard to comprehend the stories of women who carry new life around inside them, often for months, without realising they are pregnant.

How does this happen? What symptoms do they miss?

We asked three women who’ve had this experience, to tell us more:

Donna* from Jo’burg

When I fell pregnant my life was falling part, and I put the immense exhaustion I felt down to depression. I was losing a company I’d built, and I was under incredible stress, so my body was out of tune anyway. When I finally realised I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter – I was already about 16 weeks along. My period has always been irregular and although I’d been off the pill for a year, I’d forgotten we’d been trying to have a baby, with all the stress at work.

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When I fell pregnant for the second time I also didn’t realise I was pregnant due to how hectic work was. It was only once I was on holiday in December that I clicked and did a pregnancy test. This time I was a little more in tune with my body and noticed that I was craving food I didn’t normally show interest in. Still, it was not an ‘I knew I was pregnant immediately’ situation either.

Cath* from Durban

I discovered I was pregnant over the Christmas season, when my sister was visiting from overseas. Because she hadn’t seen me in a few months, the physical difference I was exhibiting was quite marked! I completely denied being pregnant and wrote her off as being ridiculous. “I’m just getting fat!” I yelled. She dared me to take a pregnancy test anyway, and I did. The rest, as you can imagine, is 14-year-old history.

I have always had an unpredictable menstrual cycle, so a missed period or three were not tell-tale signs for me. I had no morning sickness, and no other symptoms whatsoever. Hilariously, after I took a pregnancy test (and had it confirmed by our local GP), we discovered that I was almost halfway through my pregnancy!

Ellen* from Jo’burg

I wasn’t expecting to be pregnant. I was on the pill which I took on a 21-day cycle, so I didn’t have periods at all. I think the first signs for me were tender breasts and a sudden distaste for coffee. Then it was an instant gut feel… I knew I was pregnant without having to confirm it. I must be the most fertile person on earth because both my pregnancies happened when I started my pill cycle just a day or two late. Luckily both pregnancies were welcome surprises, so it didn’t cause me undue stress.

Sudden motherhood

If you’re someone who is dealing with ‘sudden motherhood’, it’s understandable that you may feel a bit overwhelmed. But even if you do find out when you’re fairly far along, here are some things you can do to start getting into your motherhood groove:

  • Get to the doctor. If you haven’t already confirmed your pregnancy with a doctor or gynae, now is the time. They’ll be able to check all your vital signs, see that baby is developing as they should, and even tell you your due date. They will also recommend any supplements you should be taking.
  • Get healthy: Right now your body is creating another life, so you need to be giving it the best chance of thriving. Stop smoking, start a gentle exercise regime (or continue it gently if you’re already active), cut out alcohol, get more sleep, improve your diet and try to reduce stress in any way you know how.
  • Find your tribe. If you don’t have a partner in your life, bringing up a baby on your own is difficult, so reach out to your community and tell them the news. Whether it’s family, friends, neighbours or colleagues, find people you can rely on and who will have your back when your baby arrives.
  • The right maternity cover. Ensure you are covered (or get covered) by a good medical aid. Many of them, like Fedhealth, have great maternity programmes with rich benefits including gorgeous baby products, discounts on baby equipment and handy expert advice if you have any concerns.

Realising that you’re ‘suddenly pregnant’ can be a big shock – especially as you have less time than most pregnant women to prepare for your baby’s arrival. But you’ll be surprised at how quickly you adapt, so do your best to put solid plans in place as soon as you do find out.

Above all, realise that bringing up baby really does take a village, so ask others for help, connect with other new-moms-to-be, and try and go with the flow of this new turn your life has taken!

Article by Belinda Mountain 

*names changed