8 Things to Expect at Your First Prenatal Checkup
Once the initial shock of finding out you’re expecting subsides, the first things you probably think about is when to have your first prenatal appointment and who to see. From there, you will probably begin wondering what to expect, especially if you’re doing all of this for the first time. Here are eight things you can expect during your first obstetrician appointment.
1. A Medical History Discussion
Talking about your medical history helps your obstetrician determine the type of care you'll need during your pregnancy and whether anything in your history could put you or your baby at risk. In addition to discussing any prior medical, psychological or psychiatric diagnoses, you will likely talk about:
- The date of your last period
- Methods of birth control you have used
- Whether you have ever had an abortion or miscarriage
- Whether you have ever been hospitalized
- Any medications you take
- Medications you are allergic to
2. A Discussion About Your Family’s Medical History
After discussing your own medical history, your doctor will likely ask you about your family's medical history. This is because many diseases are hereditary in some way. Information you may consider disclosing includes cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental illness.
3. A Talk About Your Habits
Smoking, drinking and abusing prescription or non-prescription drugs have proven to contribute to pregnancy and birth-related issues such as miscarriage risks, premature delivery, low birth weight, blindness and severe medical issues in the newborn. If you feel you may have issues stopping one of the above habits, it is important to be honest with your doctor so that he or she can provide you with options for getting help. Your doctor will probably ask if you are or have been a victim of abuse. It is important to discuss these issues honestly because they could affect your safety and the safety of your unborn baby.
4. Blood Tests
After discussing your medical history and habits, your doctor will want to take some of your blood to perform basic laboratory tests. In addition to screening your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels, your tests will screen for rubella, a history of the chicken pox or hepatitis vaccine, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell and HIV. Other tests include:
- Rh factor: If you do not have the Rh antigen in your blood, you are Rh-negative. If your partner does, your baby could be Rh-positive, which may mean you need an injection of Rh immunoglobulin to protect yourself and your baby.
- Tay Sach's: This inherited disorder destroys nerve cells and causes seizures, vision or hearing loss and other problems. However, it is very rare and in most cases, screening is just a precaution.
Your doctor may also decide to screen for tuberculosis, Hepatitis C or other illness based on your specific history.
5. A Physical Examination
Much of your first prenatal visit will be a physical examination. In addition to the basics, such as taking your temperature, recording your height and weight and checking your blood pressure and pulse, your obstetrician will perform a basic pelvic exam. If you haven't had a pap smear recently, he or she will perform one to check for abnormal cells. Drink plenty of water before your appointment because you will likely need to provide a urine sample to check for urinary tract infections. Finally, your doctor may also perform a culture to check for chlamydia or gonorrhea.
6. To Learn What You Can and Can’t Do
One of the most important things to expect during your first prenatal appointment is a discussion about what to do and what to avoid to have a healthy pregnancy. Your obstetrician will tell you what precautions to take to avoid possible miscarriage as well as recommend prenatal vitamins, supplements or herbs to help your baby's health. Developing a nutrition and exercise plan as well as discussing what to expect in terms of weight gain are also important. If your doctor shares a practice with other obstetricians, he or she should provide you with rotation information so you know who is on duty at what times and can become acquainted with the other doctors or midwives. Finally, your doctor should provide information about what to avoid, such as:
- Changing cat litter
- Eating meat or fish that isn't well-done
- Some gardening tasks
- Certain medications
- Environmental hazards
- Certain types of travel
7. Possible Discussion About Your Birthing Plan
During your first visit to the obstetrician, he or she may bring up your birthing plan. Don’t panic; you don’t need to make every decision now. However, it is a good time to ask questions and discuss risks. Consider whether you want to have a natural birth or would like pain medication. Do you want to be induced near your due date or go into labor naturally? Will you give birth in a hospital or at home? While you consider these decisions, keep in mind that lots of things can change during a pregnancy and that ultimately, your baby is going to be born when he or she wants to so become more wrapped up in having a healthy baby than in having a specific type of birth.
8. A Due Date Prediction
During your first visit, your doctor will try to predict your due date. While the average pregnancy is 40 weeks from the first day of your last period, only about 5 percent of women have their babies on the exact due date. Most women give birth in a two-week window surrounding the estimated date of delivery. The due date is important to help measure the growth of your baby and to perform tests that are most accurate during certain weeks in the pregnancy.
You should schedule your first prenatal visit about eight weeks after your last period. As you choose a doctor, be sure to verify licenses, search for reviews from previous patients and consider how friendly he or she seems. You want to see someone who is patient and who makes you feel comfortable when you have questions or concerns.