Advice for New Parents
New parents and newborn

Becoming a parent for the first time can trigger a variety of emotions. 

You might feel: excited, overjoyed, exhausted, and even not quite ready for the task at times. The interesting thing about parenting is that the journey is similar for all of us. Whether you are rich or struggling, young or older, alone or surrounded by family and friends, having your first child will lead you into this journey of mixed emotions, trial and error, and wonderful and challenging firsts. Knowing the basics, including what to expect, can make these first years just a little easier. 

Know That the First Couple of Years are Challenging 

The first few years of parenting will demand the most of your body, time, energy, and patience, and then those demands will ease up a little and life will settle into a rhythm that becomes easier to manage daily. Knowing that this too, shall pass, can make it easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel on challenging days. 

During the first year, expect changes to your daily routines: what time you wake up, what time you go to bed, how long it takes to get ready before leaving the house, what kinds of things you do for fun, when you eat, who you spend time with, and more. 

Lean on the people who love and support you (and local programs if you don’t have a strong support network) for the help you need to get through the first few years. 

Carrying a Newborn 

Your newborn baby isn’t strong enough to support his/her own head and neck. Be sure to support his or her head and neck every time you pick up or carry your new baby to prevent harm. This website provides step-by-step instructions – with pictures – for picking up, holding, and carrying your baby safely. 

General tips include: 

  • Always support the head and neck until the baby is strong enough to support his or her own head 
  • Never cook or carry a hot beverage while you are holding the baby 
  • When elderly people or children want to hold your baby, ask them to sit and show them how to hold their arms to provide adequate neck support — and then stay nearby 

Bonding Time 

Your child’s development is dependent upon bonding with you. In fact, touching, talking, cuddling, and singing cause your infant’s brain to release hormones that support brain growth and development. That means that while you may feel pressured to keep up with the housework and your appearance, the most important need you can address is your infant’s need for time with you.  

Bonding Time 

Ways to support healthy bonding: 

  • Incorporate touch into your regular routine. You can gently massage your newborn’s legs, arms, back, or scalp when dressing him or her, bathing him or her, or changing his or her diaper. 
  • Offer skin-to-skin contact as much as possible or consider using a sling or carrier to hold your baby when you walk, shop, or do your household chores. 
  • Respond when your newborn cries to let him or her know that you are there and you hear them or care for them, even if you are not sure why they might be crying. 
  • Make eye contact with your newborn when you speak to them, sing to them, or engage with them. Make facial expressions that match what you are saying to help them learn to connect feelings and words. 
  • Sing to your newborn, even if you don’t like your singing voice! 

Feeding and Bathing 

Newborns should only be fed breast milk or infant formula. Breastfed babies typically eat as often as every 2-3 hours while formula-fed babies eat every 2-4 hours. Your baby might tell you they’re hungry by sucking on their hands, grabbing for the breast or bottle, or smacking or sucking on their lips and tongue. If they don’t demonstrate these hunger cues or you miss them, they might become upset and cry. 

Your baby will also tell you when they’re full by falling asleep during the feeding, pulling away from the breast or bottle, or discontinuing the sucking motion. Your pediatrician will tell you when to introduce foods into your baby’s diet. 

When it comes to bathing, follow your baby’s cues. Newborns don’t need a bath more than a couple of times per week, but for some babies, bathing relaxes them and helps them sleep better. If your baby enjoys bathing, you can certainly bathe him or her daily. If your baby has dry skin, cradle cap, or other skin problems, you may need to bathe less often depending on your provider’s recommendations. 

To bathe your baby, use warm water (tested with your wrist) and no soap in the first few weeks. Wash their arms, legs, fingers, toes, bottom, hair, and back. Pay special attention to the little folds in their neck. Sweat and milk like to hide here! 

Then, gently pat your baby dry, drying in between any skin folds carefully to prevent soreness or yeast infections. Keep a towel draped over the baby while you dress him or her to prevent lost heat. 

When Baby Sleeps, You Sleep 

When Baby Sleeps, You Sleep 

Finding time to rest with a newborn at home can feel challenging as they rarely sleep through the night, a schedule you may have been accustomed to before having a baby. Instead, your newborn will sleep frequently, for shorter periods of time, throughout the day. 

Your body is recovering from growing, carrying, and delivering a baby along with the hormonal changes that follow it. At the same time, whether you breastfeed or formula feed, your body is adjusting breast milk production accordingly – a process that can be painful and draining. 

To ensure you get plenty of rest after bringing the baby home, sleep when the baby sleeps. All the other things can wait. 

For more support as you prepare for first-time parenting – for support if you’re already there – visit us at Willow Womens Center. Free parenting classes help you prepare for parenting at all ages and stages! 


Could You Be Further Along in Pregnancy Than You Think?
can you be further along in pregnancy than you think

Trying to determine when you are due and whether that due date is correct, can be challenging, especially if you feel “bigger” than you did with previous pregnancies or you are measuring ahead during your appointments. This blog post explores signs that your due date might be off, factors that can influence an inaccurate due date, and how to estimate your due date based on your menstrual cycle.

Signs Your Due Date Is Off

If you don’t know the first date of your last menstrual period, you don’t know your average cycle length, or you have mistaken bleeding during pregnancy for menstruation, your assumed due date can be inaccurate. Some of the most common signs that your due date might be off are:

  • your ultrasound-predicted due date is more than a week from your menstrual-cycle due date
  • your fundal height is off, especially if it is off by more than 3 cm
  • your due date was determined by fetal Doppler or an ultrasound in the second or third trimester; these are less accurate ways to estimate the due date.

It is important to rely on the expertise of your OBGYN or other physician to help you understand how your due date was calculated, what outliers like a fundal height that is measuring ahead might mean for you (fundal height is the distance from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus measured in centimeters), and what you can expect when it comes to gestational length. Ultrasound-determined due dates are most accurate during the first trimester, and measuring ‘ahead’ doesn’t result in a changed due date in most cases.

In short, it is common to deliver a few weeks before to one week after your due date, and true due date changes are less common and should be made by a provider based on all of the information they have available to them.

Influencing Factors

A number of studies have evaluated average gestation length as it relates to different factors, like age, race, pregnancy history, and more. Here’s what those studies have revealed:

  • length of gestation increases with maternal age, so mothers who are under 25 are likely to have shorter pregnancies than women who are over 25, for example
  • length of gestation is longer for women with higher birth weights themselves, i.e. women who weighed more at birth will carry a pregnancy longer on average than women who weighed less at birth
  • women with longer implantation periods also have longer pregnancies
  • smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or both increase the risk of preterm birth and shorten gestation overall
  • black women have shorter pregnancies than white women by 5 days on average
  • pregnancies with male fetuses are longer on average than pregnancies with female fetuses
  • gestation decreases as the number of fetuses increases; i.e. singleton pregnancies are longer on average than twin pregnancies and length continues to decrease as the number of fetuses increases

While all of these factors can influence how long you can expect to be pregnant, your due date will remain the same. That means that even if you and your provider suspect that you will deliver early or late, your due date won’t be adjusted to account for that – it will remain at 40 weeks past the first day of your last menstrual period.

How to Estimate An Accurate Due Date

First, it is important to note that your due date is simply an estimate; it can help you plan and prepare and help you and your doctors make decisions in the case of early delivery or complications, but it cannot predict exactly when you will go into labor. Your due date is typically set for 40 weeks after the first day of your last menstrual period, and most women deliver sometime after 37 weeks and before 41 weeks.

Tracking your periods can help you estimate an accurate due date. To estimate your own due date:

  1. Identify the first date of your last normal menstrual period. Some women mistake bleeding during pregnancy for their menstrual period and don’t realize they are pregnant, so it is important to reflect on whether the period was as heavy, as long, and as uncomfortable as it has typically been in the past. If you can’t remember or don’t keep track of your menstrual cycle, sometimes it can be helpful to think about where you were at or what you were doing when it started and then cross-reference your calendar.
  2. Add 40 weeks or 280 days. There are a variety of free pregnancy due date calculators online, like this one from the American Pregnancy Association, that will do the math for you so you don’t have to count it out yourself.

Then, you can calculate how many weeks or months pregnant you are at any given time, using these formulas:

  • Number of weeks pregnant: take the number of days that have passed since the first day of your last menstrual period divided by 7
  • Number of months pregnant: take the number of days that have passed since the first day of your last menstrual period divided by 30

Keep in mind that you will be two weeks further along in your pregnancy than you might think; for example, if you had sex and conceived two weeks ago, and you have a 28 day cycle, then you are actually four weeks pregnant.

Getting Help for an Unexpected Pregnancy

If you think you might be pregnant and are weighing your options, scheduling an early pregnancy test and ultrasound is one reliable way to estimate your due date when you don’t know the first day of your last menstrual period. Early knowledge of pregnancy is key to ensuring a healthy lifestyle, adequate nutrition, and time to explore options, especially in the case of an unexpected or surprise pregnancy. Willow Womens Center offers pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, and ultrasound for women who test positive in our office. Ultrasounds are most productive if you are approximately 6 weeks from your last menstrual period. If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, schedule your confidential visit at  Willow Womens Center today.


Being Pressured into Abortion? What Next?
being pressured into abortion

At Willow Womens Center, we frequently meet women who share that they are facing pressure to have an abortion. This pressure can make an already complex decision much more confusing during such a difficult time. In this blog post, we will review different types of pressure, your rights as a woman who is expecting (regardless of age), and what you can do in this situation.

Different Types of Pressure

While some women know for sure that their partner or parents are applying pressure, other women feel confused about the behavior they are seeing and experiencing. That pressure comes in many forms.

Direct pressure occurs when your partner (or in some cases, your parent or parents) tells you to get an abortion. They may tell you that they do not want a child, will not stay with you if you have the child, will not claim the child, or they will not support the child. In some cases, a woman may even be subject to verbal or physical abuse if she resists this pressure to terminate her pregnancy.

Indirect pressure occurs when your partner plants seeds of doubt in your mind without directly demanding that you terminate the pregnancy. For example, he might say things like, “I just don’t know if your mental health can really handle this right now,” to a woman who has a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, or, “How are you going to afford this on your own?” to a woman who does not work outside the home. He might insinuate that your relationship will not survive, your body won’t bounce back, your finances won’t suffice, or other aspects of your life will suffer if you move forward with the pregnancy. After these comments, you might believe it was your own decision to have an abortion.

Situational pressure is more difficult to identify and occurs when a situation is not conducive to pregnancy or parenthood. Perhaps none of your friends have children and having a baby will leave you feeling ostracized or left out, or perhaps your parents are absent in your life so you do not believe you have the role models or support you need to provide a loving home for a child. Maybe you feel that having a child out of wedlock or born of an affair will lead to being shunned or judged by your peers at work or in school. These are all examples of situational pressure.

Legalities When Being Pressured into Abortion

There are several things you need to know about your legal rights if you are being pressured to have an abortion.

Nobody can force you to terminate a pregnancy. Even if you are under 18 years old, you cannot be forced to have an abortion against your will. Depending on the jurisdiction, the person attempting to force you to have an abortion can potentially be charged with coercion, a form of abuse. If you feel like you are not safe because you are refusing to have an abortion, contact the police and request a protection order.

You can always withdraw your consent even after you have already scheduled an appointment to have an abortion. Many women change their minds after scheduling an appointment they were pressured to schedule, but do not know that they can change their minds after signing consent. Until the abortion has been performed, you have a right to change your mind – even if you are already at the clinic or you have already taken one of the abortion pills. Abortion pill reversals may be available.

What to Do Next

First, schedule an appointment at Willow Womens Center to learn about all your options. We are located in Beloit, Wisconsin and offer pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, STI testing, community resources, and more to help you make the most informed decision possible during this difficult and often confusing time.

It is also important to give whoever is pressuring you some time and space to work through their feelings. Remember that an unplanned pregnancy causes emotions for you and other people that are close to you, such as your partner or a parent. Invite them to come with you to your appointment at our clinic, where they can see the ultrasound images and can find out some of the important information together with you.

Share your pregnancy with others who will support you. If you are not getting the support you need from your partner, it is important to share your news with friends or family members who will support you and can help you with your decision. These days can be less stressful when you have the right people alongside you, and often you also need somebody to talk to as you experience the ups and downs of pregnancy.

Finally, take time to get to explore what you want. Ask yourself what your plans for your future and your values are and how these will be impacted by your decision. Explore your fears and worries about this unexpected pregnancy in depth and get support to work through them with a friend, mentor, or counselor. Ask yourself what is important to you, how this pregnancy fits into that, and what kind of decisions you need to make now to align with your plans and values and who you are as a person.

Getting Help From Willow Womens Center

Facing an unplanned pregnancy is complicated in any situation, but it becomes infinitely more challenging if you feel pressured to make a decision that you may not want. Take the first step toward making an informed decision that you can stand behind and schedule a consultation with Willow Womens Center in Beloit, Wisconsin today. During your appointment, we can provide pregnancy testing, perform an ultrasound examination, and share all the options available to you, including abortion, so you can make the most informed decision about your future.


Surgical Abortion vs Pill: What You Should Know
surgical abortion vs pill

Deciding whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy is challenging, and then determining the safest and most effective way to determine adds an additional challenge during a sensitive time in your life. In this blog post, we’ll share everything you need to know about both medical and surgical abortion options so you can make the most informed decision if you choose to end a pregnancy.

What is a Surgical Abortion vs Pill?

When you begin exploring your options for terminating an unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy that isn’t viable, you’ll learn that there are two general kinds of abortion: medical or surgical. In this blog post, we’ll describe each type of abortion including eligibility criteria, what to expect, recovery, and long-term outcomes to help you make the most informed decision about your future.

Medical Abortion

Medical abortion is often referred to as ‘the abortion pill’ and refers to a combination of two medications that are designed to end pregnancy with surgery in its earliest stages.

When is the Abortion Pill Recommended?

Women who are up to 11 weeks pregnant may be candidates for the abortion pill, but the effectiveness of the medication wanes as the pregnancy progresses, which means it’s most effective for women who are up to 8 weeks pregnant. Specifically, effectiveness by gestation is:

  • 94-98% effective for women who are 8 weeks pregnant or less
  • 94-96% effective for women who are 8-9 weeks pregnant
  • 91-93% effective for women who are 9-10 weeks pregnant
  • 87% effective for women who are 10-11 weeks pregnant

In some cases, women who are 9-11 weeks pregnant can be given an extra dose of medication to increase the likelihood of a successful termination.

What Should I Expect During My Medical Abortion?

A medical abortion requires several clinic appointments in Wisconsin. First, you’ll visit a pregnancy clinic for a consultation appointment. During that appointment, we’ll confirm your pregnancy, viability, and gestation and discuss all of your options with you.

If you choose to terminate the pregnancy, you’ll be referred to a clinic that performs abortions for a counseling appointment. In Wisconsin, the counseling must be provided at least 24 hours before the abortion is administered, so you’ll come back 24 hours later to take the first medication, which is called mifepristone. Mifepristone blocks your body’s progesterone, which is needed to continue pregnancy. Then you’ll take a second pill called misoprostol, which causes your uterus to empty. You can expect to experience cramping and bleeding, which might be uncomfortable or even painful, after you take the second pill. When you take that pill will depend on your provider’s instructions.

What are My Options if the Abortion Pill Doesn’t Work?

If you don’t experience bleeding within a day of taking the misoprostol, you may be able to receive another dose or move forward with a surgical abortion. Contact your doctor or nurse to let them know that you didn’t bleed after your medical abortion.

What are the Benefits of Medical Abortion?

Many women choose medical abortion if they’re eligible because it allows them to avoid a surgical procedure and the recovery that comes with it. It can also be performed earlier in the pregnancy and for some women, offers greater privacy as they don’t have to arrange a support person for travel after their procedure.

Surgical Abortion

Surgical abortion, which is also called suction aspiration abortion, refers to the surgical procedure designed to terminate a pregnancy.

When is Surgical Abortion Recommended?

Surgical abortion can be performed to terminate pregnancy for women who are up to 19 weeks and 6 days pregnant in Wisconsin (and in cases when the mother’s life is in danger, up to 22 weeks pregnant). For this reason, surgical abortion is appropriate for many women who are not candidates for medical abortion due to length of gestation. Some medical providers delay surgical abortion until after 7 weeks gestation.

Surgical abortion is 98-99% effective, making it more effective overall than medical abortion.

What Should I Expect During My Surgical Abortion?

In most cases, surgical abortion is a one-day, outpatient procedure. Per Wisconsin state law, you’ll be counseled on your options at least 24 hours prior to your appointment. If you choose to proceed with surgical abortion, your healthcare team will provide you with pre-op instructions so you know how to prepare for your appointment and recovery.

On the day of your procedure, you’ll be given medications to help manage your pain and relax your cervix. Much like you do during an annual exam, you’ll lie on an exam table and place your feet in the stirrups. A speculum is inserted in your vagina so your cervix can be dilated and pregnancy tissue can be removed using gentle suction.

You may experience some cramping and discomfort during and after the procedure. You’ll need a driver to take you home after the procedure, but you’ll be able to return to regular activity the next day.

Women who are more than fourteen weeks pregnant will likely need to stay in the hospital overnight and may have a different experience and recovery. Your doctor can help you understand what to expect.

What are My Options if the Abortion Doesn’t Work?

Surgical abortion is very rarely unsuccessful. In the rare case that a surgical abortion is unsuccessful, discuss your options with your healthcare provider. You may be eligible for a repeat procedure.

What are the Benefits of Surgical Abortion?

Some women choose surgical abortion because it can be performed later in pregnancy, it requires fewer office visits, it produces less bleeding afterward, and it’s more effective overall than medical abortion.

What Method is Right for Me?

Willow Womens Center can help you evaluate your options when facing an unexpected pregnancy. For women who choose to end an unplanned pregnancy, both medical and surgical termination are effective options. When it comes to surgical abortion vs pill, there is no best option for all patients; consulting with your healthcare provider is imperative for making the most informed decision.

Schedule an appointment with Willow Womens Center to explore your options for unplanned pregnancy today.