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Becoming a parent

3 February 2016

Becoming a parent can be an exciting and anxious time, bringing with it joy, as well as a number of challenges. Whether you are planning to have a baby, think you might be pregnant, expecting a baby, or have just given birth, we have useful help and advice to guide you through the process.  

Planning to have a baby

Having a baby is a life-changing experience, so before you do, you should make sure that you are fully prepared for the impact this will have. You will need to consider issues such as your finances and childcare arrangements, as well as the many sleepless nights it will bring! 
If you are concerned that you may not be able to afford to have a baby, there are a number of benefits that you may be entitled to. Women who are employed are entitled to maternity leave, which allows you up to a year of fully paid leave to look after your new baby. Many dads will be entitled to paternity leave, which gives them time to bond with their child.

Think you might be pregnant

The NHS Choices website has a comprehensive guide which explains how you can find out if you are pregnant. If you think that you may be pregnant, then the first thing to do is to arrange an appointment with your GP or a midwife.

Being pregnant

If you are pregnant, one of the first things you should do is get in touch with a midwife or your GP to arrange antenatal care.
You will also need to make changes to your lifestyle, including giving up smoking and alcohol, as well as looking closely at your diet. During pregnancy, you will be able to be physically active, but you should be cautious about the type of exercise you do.
It is important to prepare for your birth, to make sure that it runs as smoothly as possible. As part of this, you should choose where your baby will be delivered, consider the equipment you will need to buy and attend antenatal classes.
To help you to work out when your baby is due, the NHS offers an online calculator. Most women, however, do not give birth on this exact date. If your baby is overdue, you can find information on the NHS Choices website. 

After you have given birth

Hopefully, your baby will be healthy and delivered without any complications. If this is not the case, babies who need special care will be kept in a special care baby unit (SCBU) or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where they will receive expert treatment.
When your baby is ready to be brought home, the first few days may be daunting; however, for most people it is a time of great happiness. Giving birth is an emotional time and many women may find themselves suffering with what is commonly called the “baby blues.” If these symptoms persist for longer than a week you might be experiencing postnatal depression. If this is the case, you should consider making an appointment to see your doctor.
You should register the birth as soon as possible, at your local register office. You may also want to consider a naming ceremony or a christening in celebration of your new arrival.
When you are ready to return to work, you will need to consider childcare. Even if you plan to stay at home, it will help your child’s development for them to mix with others in a nursery environment. You can find information on the options available to you in our early years and childcare section.