From Mayo Clinic
Prenatal care is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Whether
you choose a family physician, obstetrician, midwife or group prenatal
care, here's what to expect during the first few prenatal appointments.
Prenatal care: The first visit
As soon as you think you're pregnant, schedule your first prenatal
appointment. Set aside ample time for the visit. You and your health
care provider have plenty to discuss! You might want to include your
partner in the appointment as well.
Your health care provider will ask many questions, including details about:
- Your menstrual cycle
- Use of birth control
- Past pregnancies
- Your personal medical history
- Your family medical history
- Medication use, including prescription and over-the-counter medications or supplements
Be sure to mention even sensitive issues, such as domestic abuse,
abortion or past drug use. Remember, the information you share will help
your health care provider take the best care of you - and your baby.
If there's any part of your medical history that you don't want to
share with your partner or other loved ones, mention it to your health
care provider privately.
Few women actually give birth on their due dates. Still, establishing
your due date - or estimated date of delivery - is important. An
accurate due date allows your health care provider to monitor your
baby's growth and the progress of your pregnancy, as well as schedule
certain tests or procedures at the most appropriate time.
To estimate your due date, your health care provider will likely
count ahead 40 weeks from the start of your last period - or add seven
days to the first day of your last period and then subtract three
If there's any question about your due date - if you don't know the
date of your last period or your periods are irregular, for example -
your health care provider might recommend an early ultrasound to help
confirm the date.
Your health care provider will check your weight, height and blood
pressure. He or she will listen to your heart and assess your overall
Your health care provider might examine your vagina and the opening
to your uterus (cervix) for any infections or abnormalities. Changes in
the cervix and in the size of your uterus can help confirm the stage of
You might need a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer as well, depending on how long it's been since your last screening.
At your first prenatal visit, blood tests might be done to:
- Check your blood type. This includes your Rh
status. Rhesus (Rh) factor is an inherited trait that refers to a
specific protein found on the surface of red blood cells. Your pregnancy
needs special care if you're Rh negative and your baby's father is Rh
- Measure your hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich
protein found in red blood cells that allows the cells to carry oxygen
from your lungs to other parts of your body, and to carry carbon dioxide
from other parts of your body to your lungs so that it can be exhaled.
Low hemoglobin is a sign of anemia - a lack of healthy red blood cells.
- Check immunity to certain infections. This
typically includes rubella and chickenpox (varicella) - unless proof of
vaccination or natural immunity is documented in your medical history.
- Detect exposure to other infections. Your health
care provider might suggest blood tests to detect various other
infections, such as hepatitis B, toxoplasmosis, syphilis, gonorrhea or
chlamydia. You might also be offered a test to check for HIV, the virus
that causes AIDS.
A urine sample might be tested for signs of a bladder, urinary tract or kidney infection.
Your health care provider will discuss the importance of proper
nutrition and prenatal vitamins. Your first prenatal visit is a good
time to discuss exercise, sex during pregnancy and other lifestyle
issues. You might also discuss your work environment and the use of
medications during pregnancy.
If you smoke, ask your health care provider for suggestions to help you quit.
Screening tests for fetal abnormalities
Prenatal tests can provide valuable information about your baby's
health. Your health care provider might offer ultrasound, blood tests or
other screening tests to detect fetal abnormalities.
Prenatal care: Other first trimester visits
Subsequent prenatal visits - often scheduled about every four weeks
during the first trimester - will probably be shorter than the first.
Your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure, and
you'll discuss your signs and symptoms.
Near the end of the first trimester - by about nine to 12 weeks of
pregnancy - you might be able to hear your baby's heartbeat with a small
device that bounces sound waves off your baby's heart (Doppler).
You probably won't need another pelvic exam until later in your pregnancy.
Remember, your health care provider is there to support you
throughout your pregnancy. Your prenatal appointments are an ideal time
to discuss any questions or concerns - including things that might be
uncomfortable or embarrassing.
Also find out how to reach your health care provider between
appointments. Knowing help is available when you need it can offer
precious peace of mind.
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