Once you’ve taken a home pregnancy test or had a blood test to confirm that you are expecting a baby, it will be time to schedule your first prenatal appointment. Prenatal care is extremely important to the health and well-being of you and your baby, and should be a regular part of your pregnancy experience for the next months until you deliver. You and your partner should talk about whether or not both of you want to attend these appointments. Most obstetricians will schedule this appointment for 8-10 weeks after the first date of your last period. This can be an exciting time, but you also might have some questions and concerns about what to expect at this first prenatal checkup.
Preparing for the Appointment
Before you go in to your first prenatal appointment, take some time to gather some important information that your doctor will use to make a complete assessment of your health and needs as an expectant mother.
Personal Health History – Your doctor will need to know about various aspects of your personal health history. Make sure that your obstetrician has access to copies of all of your medical records, which you should have sent to the office ahead of time so that your doctor will have everything needed. Also make sure that you gather the following information:
- A list of all medications you currently use, as well as any significant medication or drug use in the past
- A list of all vitamins and over the counter medications and supplements you are using
- Allergies, including to medications, foods, or other things – especially latex
- Vaccination history – which should be a part of your medical record
- History of diseases and infections (Chicken Pox, STDs, Strep, cancer, etc.)
- A list of any exposures that might affect your health or the health of your baby. This includes second-hand smoke, possible lead poisoning from old paint in homes, or radiation.
- A calendar of your recent menstrual cycle
- A list of questions you might have about your pregnancy – there are no bad questions
Family Health History – An important part of the first prenatal appointment will be to gather a complete family health history. Gather as much information as you can so that you can accurately provide your doctor with a genetic picture of the issues that you or your baby might face. The people who generally comprise this overall picture include your parents, grandparents, and siblings, and your partner’s parents, grandparents, and siblings. Things to consider when gathering this information about health history include:
- health history, including arrhythmias, heart attacks, and blood pressure issues
- significant patterns in family health that go beyond immediate family – such as several aunts or cousins with a specific disease
- mental illnesses
- birth defects
- genetic conditions
At The First Prenatal Appointment
One of the first things you will likely be asked to do is complete a lot of paperwork, but if you have gathered the information ahead of time, this process will be much easier. You will also be asked to provide a urine sample for routine testing (most doctors test urine at every appointment), be weighed, measured for height, and have your blood pressure taken. All of this might happen before you even see your doctor. During your appointment, will commonly also:
- Perform a pelvic and breast exam to look for any signs or symptoms that might interfere with a healthy pregnancy
- Ask you about any early pregnancy symptoms you may be experiencing
- Determine a due date, based heavily on the menstruation calendar you provide
- Review your medical histories and discuss any concerns
- Run tests for your complete blood profile, looking for things such as the Rh Factor, HIV, anemia, and other health indicators
- Discuss with you a plan for healthy diet, exercise, medication use, and future scheduling of prenatal appointments
Sometimes doctors will use a Doppler instrument to listen for the baby’s heartbeat, but at 8-10 weeks this can be hard to do. If there are concerns an internal Doppler may be used. Some doctors will also perform or order a sonogram or ultrasound to verify the gestational age and health of your pregnancy. Be sure to ask questions, take any notes you feel are important, and keep scheduling those important prenatal exams.
[Feature Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]