Your First AppointmentOnce you have decided on a practitioner, you will need to book your first prenatal health care appointment. During this appointment, your medical history will be taken and you will be given a thorough checkup as well as a number of tests. The first appointment tends to be the longest – it lasts about an hour – but follow-up appointments will be less intense.
Your Medical HistoryYour health care practitioner will begin the appointment by taking your medical history. She may ask you:
- if you have any serious or chronic illnesses, or if you have undergone surgery
- if you are on any prescription medications
- if you have had a baby before
- if you drink, smoke, or do recreational drugs
- if you know of any genetic disorders in your family
Your Physical ExamYou will also undergo a thorough physical exam to check on your overall health and wellness. Your health care provider will:
- check your blood pressure
- measure your height and weight
- check your limbs for signs of swelling (edema)
- give you an internal pelvic exam and pap smear to check for infection or cancerous cells
TestingCertain tests need to be performed during your first prenatal appointment. These include a blood test to confirm your pregnancy. It also includes a urinalysis to check your blood sugar and protein levels. This can help to prevent uncontrolled gestational diabetes during pregnancy. You will also be offered an HIV test to prevent passing the virus on to your baby.
Later Prenatal Appointments
You will need to return for more prenatal appointments throughout your pregnancy. Later prenatal appointments may not be as long as your initial session, however, these appointments will still help to examine you for any possible complications. Your weight will be taken at each appointment, in order to determine how your baby is developing.
At about 12 weeks your health care provider will listen to your baby’s heart rate using a fetal Doppler machine. Starting around the 20th week of pregnancy, a measurement of your stomach will be taken to track your baby’s growth. Ultrasounds will also be given during some prenatal appointments.
How Often Should You Go?For your first 28 weeks of pregnancy, you should visit with your practitioner about once a month. Your visits will increase to twice monthly until you are 36 weeks pregnant. Following 36 weeks, you will probably see your health care provider about once every week.
Your Relationship with Your Health Care ProviderIt is important that you have a good relationship with your health care provider –after all, together you will be looking after the health of your little one! Your health care provider should make you feel comfortable and safe, and answer any questions that you may have about your pregnancy. If you feel uncomfortable about your health care provider for any reason, do not hesitate to look for someone new to take care of you and your baby.