Congratulations – you’re pregnant! Now what? Let’s just say that during the next nine months (or so), you’re going to get to know your obstetrician really, really well. Here’s what you can expect…
You’ll want to schedule your first appointment with your health practitioner between weeks 8-12 (if you can wait that long!). During the first trimester, you’ll see your doctor every three to four weeks.
If your pregnancy is determined to be higher risk (i.e., you’ve had a difficult previous pregnancy or you have abdominal pain), your doctor may want to schedule earlier and more frequent visits.
YOUR FIRST VISIT
This will be the longest office visit. You can expect to:
• Review your medical history with your doctor. Come prepared with information such as the first day of your last period, any medications you take, and any family history related to genetics or birth defects.
• Have a physical exam to determine your overall health.
• Have a pelvic and breast exam.
• Take a blood test to determine your blood type, your Rh factor, and to check for any iron deficiencies (anemia).
• Possibly be tested for diabetes if you have high blood pressure, you’re an older mother, you previously gave birth to a large baby, or if you’re considerably overweight.
• Have the size of your uterus checked (either measured externally or via ultrasound).
• Have blood drawn for initial lab tests (unless you recently had pre-pregnancy testing) to check for diseases such as syphilis, hepatitis, exposure to the HIV virus, and for immunity to rubella (German measles).
• Have a Pap smear.
• Have vaginal cultures taken to check for chlamydia, gonorrhea and possibly group B strep.
• Give a urine sample to check for a urinary tract infection.
• And the fun part — determine your estimated due date! (It’s usually 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period.)
AT EACH VISIT
Check your weight.
Note that some doctors may opt against routine weight checks unless you are losing weight due to morning sickness.
• Check your blood pressure.
• Take a urine screen/analysis, checking for sugar (glucose), protein, bacteria, and/or signs of infection.
• Check your ankles and other extremities for swelling.
• Check the size and height of your uterus by examining your abdomen (or via ultrasound).
• Watch the growth of the fetus.
• Possibly do additional blood tests, checking for anemia.
• Listen to the baby’s heartbeat. (You might be able to see the fetus and heart motion as early as 6 weeks!)
CONVERSATIONS TO CONSIDER
Discussions you might want to have with your doctor:
• Genetic Testing
Whether or not you’re a candidate for genetic counseling and/or testing for genetic problems — especially if you are 35 or older or have a medical/family history of problems that can be passed to your children.
• Upcoming Tests
Discuss your options for upcoming tests such as CVS (Chorionic villus sampling), amniocentesis or triple screen testing.
• First Trimester Screening
A blood test and ultrasound to measure the probability of defects. Results from these tests will determine whether or not further tests are needed.
• Keeping Healthy
How to stay healthy during your pregnancy. You should get a basic rundown of what’s to come with each trimester.
• Flu Shot
If it’s flu season, ask about a flu shot. In the U.S., an adult flu shot does contain mercury, unlike in England, where the adult flu shot has no mercury. Talk to your doctor about any risks or cost benefits.
At each visit, your obstetrician will check in with you, ask how you’re feeling, and discuss the changes you are experiencing. Be sure to ask questions, and address any concerns you may have. (It could help to write your questions down in advance. Too many times, we left the doctor’s office slapping our forehead over questions that we forgot to address!)