What to Expect on Your First Prenatal Visit

The first prenatal visit is an important one - it gives you the chance to get your pregnancy started on the right path. Read on to find out what to expect...

What to Expect on Your First Prenatal Visit

If you either know, or suspect you may be pregnant, the first step is to make an appointment for your first prenatal visit. If you have not decided who will be your primary care physician or midwife during your pregnancy, you might want to make an appointment with your gynecologist or your family doctor to talk about your plans, get some referrals, and, at least, have your first prenatal check-up.

At the first appointment, your doctor will want to find out the date of your last period in order to calculate your expected due date and determine how far into your pregnancy you are. Additionally, a thorough medical history will be taken. The doctor will likely be paying close attention to if you have had any previous pregnancies, and whether there have been any abortions, miscarriages, stillbirths, or other complications. The doctor will also be looking for any family history of diseases or conditions that may affect the pregnancy or the fetus. If some concerns, arise, the physician will possibly refer you to genetic counseling to discuss possibilities.

Also at your first visit, your doctor will order laboratory blood tests and urine tests and perform a physical examination. The blood tests will be checking to determine your blood type and whether there is concern for rhesus incompatibility, evaluating whether you are immune to various diseases, whether other diseases might be present, and whether you are anemic, as well as other conditions and concerns that can be evaluated with blood samples. The urine will be tested for the abnormally high presence of sugar, which could suggest diabetes, as well as for infection and diseases. As your pregnancy progresses, a urine sample will be taken at each visit and blood tests may be conducted periodically throughout the pregnancy (but, not likely at each visit.)

During the physical examination, the doctor will examine your abdomen and uterus and record a measurement. Throughout the pregnancy, the doctor, medical professional or attending midwife will keep an eye on the growth and development of the uterus to make sure it is appropriate for the weeks you have been pregnant - watching for signs of an abdomen that is measuring too large or too small. You will also be weighed, have your blood pressure taken, and other typical elements of a routine physical examination.

There should be a period after all the tests and the examination for you to ask questions and express concerns. The doctor or staff may give you a packet of information, pamphlets, etc. for you to take home and read related to pregnancy and delivery. You may also be given samples of prenatal vitamins and/or a prescription for vitamins and advice on diet and self care. You will be told how often you will need to be seen for your prenatal check-ups and what to look for as far as warning signs and symptoms if something is wrong. This is a good time to develop rapport with the doctor and find out his or her philosophies about childbirth to determine if it is a good match. If you will be seeking out another physician or midwife, ask for referrals at this initial meeting.

Take advantage of your first prenatal visit to start the pregnancy off right - ask questions and stay involved and engaged so you can make the most of good prenatal care.

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