Prenatal Visits: Your First Appointment

by Shannon Bartlett

Depending on your clinic's policy, your first appointment could be scheduled any time between 6 and 13 weeks

Congratulations, you're expecting! In a few short months, you'll be giving birth and holding your wee babe in your arms!

Part of your pregnancy journey is your series of prenatal checkups.

Most women can expect between 10 and 15 visits during their pregnancies. The amount of visits depends on your clinic's policy and whether your pregnancy is high-risk or not.

While you might have already been in for your official pregnancy test, today is your first official prenatal appointment.

The office might schedule you to come in as early as six weeks or as late as 13 weeks. Let's get you ready!

Action Item List

actions for your prenatal visit
Your provider will probably ask you more questions than you knew existed. They will ask about your medical and pregnancy history, and lifestyle. You'll have tests and a physical exam. You and your healthcare provider will use this results to personalize a care plan for your pregnancy.

Your Tasks

• Filling out your medical history. Go ahead and cheat on this "exam." It's perfectly okay and encouraged to bring notes from home. Do you have diabetes or high blood pressure? Do they run in your family? Have you been pregnant before? Do you or the dad smoke? Are you aware of genetic defects in either family? Even if something seems insignificant to you, your midwife or doctor might find the information useful.

• Get ready for the exam: Here's your big chance to model an attractive office gown. We admit this might not be the highlight of your visit and you might be a nervous mom-to-be. Take a deep breath and remember that all of these tests are routine.

• Scheduling your next appointments. Get your next prenatal visit in the calendar and schedule a dating ultrasound, unless you have one today. Did you? Don't forget to ask for a copy of your "baby's first picture!" It makes a great memento.

Appointment-Specific Checklist

Blood work: The lab will take a few vials of blood and check your iron level and immunities. If you have a family history of genetic disorders or if certain genetic disorders are more common among people of your racial or ethnic background, you might be offered additional screening tests.

• Pelvic exam and Pap smear: During the pelvic exam, your midwife or doctor takes a Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer and cultures to detect sexually transmitted diseases. An internal exam checks the size of your uterus and pelvis and also looks for any abnormalities of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes.

• Breast exam: Your healthcare provider will first look at your breasts for abnormalities in size or shape, or changes in the skin of the breasts or nipple. Then, using the pads of the fingers, the examiner will gently feel palpate your breasts, looking for lumps.

Routine Visit Checklist

Weigh in: Kick off your shoes and step up on the scale. During each appointment your weight will be checked. If you start pregnancy at a normal weight, experts suggest you gain of two to four pounds the first trimester and about a pound a week for the rest of the pregnancy.

• Check blood pressure: At each prenatal checkup your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure. If it's high early in pregnancy, you'll be offered extra blood pressure checks, stress management ideas and if necessary, medication.

• Screen urine: During this test you will urinate in a cup and the urine will be tested for protein, sugar and bacteria. Who ever knew pee had such a story to tell.

• Talk time: You'll have a chance to learn about pregnancy -- from nutrition to birthing and everything in between. Take this chance to talk about how you're doing and ask any and all questions you might have.

Questions to Ask

Common questions at a first prenatal visit
You are free to ask about anything. For instance, ask about your period, diet, exercise, how to contact your provider in an emergency, sleep, sex, and birthing policies.

Looking for more questions? We've tapped our members to see what they'd ask. Try these out:

• What might help with morning sickness?
• Do you offer early blood test screening for Down syndrome?
• What can I do about constipation?
• Which screening and diagnostic tests do you suggest?
• Is light-headedness a normal pregnancy symptom?
• How much coffee can I drink?
• What can I take for a cold?
• Can I continue going to the gym?
• Does this cramping mean something's wrong?
• Can we continue having sex?
• I had a couple drinks before I knew I was pregnant. Will my baby be okay?

Helpful Resources

Learn about your pregnancy
Take advantage of the practical, thought-provoking and entertaining resources on early pregnancy we've gathered up. Whether you'd like a peek at your baby's development, wonder what's happening with your body or want to meet up with others sharing this stage of pregnancy, we have what you need.

Articles to Read
30 Ways to Announce Your Pregnancy
Oh Those Raging Pregnancy Hormones
Managing Your First Trimester Fatigue

Tools to Use
Find out what's happening each day in your pregnancy!
See how your baby changes each week.
Pregnancy Videos

Get Peer-to-Peer Support
Parent and Birth Groups on Facebook on Twitter

Before you go to your appointment, print out this article and create your own list of notes to share with your healthcare provider!

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