Your First Prenatal Doctor's Visit
As soon as you suspect you're pregnant, schedule an appointment with your pregnancy health care provider, such as an obstetrician/gynecologist. Even if you've confirmed your suspicion with a home pregnancy test, it's still wise to follow-up with an appointment. This will ensure that you and your baby get off to a good start.
Why Is Prenatal Care Important?
Regular appointments with your health care provider throughout your pregnancy are important to ensure the health of you and your baby. In addition to medical care, prenatal care includes education on pregnancy and childbirth, plus counseling and support.
Frequent visits with your healthcare provider allow you to follow the progress of your baby's development. Visits also give you the opportunity to ask questions. Also, most healthcare providers welcome your partner at each visit, as well as interested family members.
What Happens at My First Medical Visit for Prenatal Care?
The first visit is designed to confirm your pregnancy and to determine your general health. In addition, the visit will give your healthcare provider clues to any risk factors that may affect your pregnancy. It will typically be longer than future visits. The purpose of the prenatal visit is to:
- Determine your due date.
- Find out your health history.
- Explore the medical history of family members.
- Determine if you have any pregnancy risk factors based on your age, health and/or personal and family history.
You will be asked about previous pregnancies and surgeries, medical conditions and exposure to any contagious diseases. Also, notify your healthcare provider about any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) you have taken or are currently taking.
Do not hesitate to ask your provider any question you may have. Most likely, those are the questions your provider hears most often!
Here are some questions you may want to ask. Print or write them down, add to them, and take them to your appointment.
- What is my due date?
- Do I need prenatal vitamins?
- Are the symptoms I'm experiencing normal?
- Is it normal not to experience certain symptoms?
- Is there anything I can take for morning sickness?
- What are the specific recommendations regarding weight gain, exercise and nutrition?
- What activities, foods, substances (for example, medicine, caffeine and alternative sweeteners like Equal) should I avoid?
- Can I have sex while I am pregnant?
- For what symptoms should I call you?
- What is the definition of a high-risk pregnancy? Am I considered to be high risk?
What Common Prenatal Tests Will I Be Given?
During the first visit, your health care provider will perform several tests, including:
- Physical exam: You are weighed and your blood pressure, heart, lungs, and breasts are checked.
- Pelvic exam: During the pelvic exam, a Pap smear is taken to screen for cervical cancer and cultures are taken to detect sexually transmitted diseases (such as gonorrhea and chlamydia). In addition, a bimanual internal exam (with two fingers inside the vagina and one hand on the abdomen) will be performed to determine the size of your uterus and pelvis. This exam will also check for any abnormalities of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes.