As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, it’s normal to feel excited, nervous, and overwhelmed about what to do next. One of the first things you’ll likely do is book an appointment with a medical professional to confirm your pregnancy and to receive guidance on things such as diet and exercise during pregnancy. The type of professional you see depends on what kind of pregnancy and birth experience you want; you can see your GP or family doctor first, or you can book directly with a midwife or an OB-GYN. Here, we’ll go over some things you should know about your first prenatal appointment, which often takes place around 8 to 10 weeks.
Prepare for your appointment.
Compile a list of all the vitamins, supplements, and medications you’re currently taking, including the dosage. If you can, find out your family history and whether your mother or grandmothers had risk factors in their pregnancies, like gestational diabetes or hypertension. Ask your partner if their family has a history of genetic disorders.
Ask someone to come with you.
Madeline Iverson, a health writer, suggests that “if you have a partner, you should bring them to your first prenatal visit. It’s a lot for one person to take in, and it helps to have a partner there.” Whether this partner is a romantic partner, family member, or close friend, it’s helpful to bring someone you trust who will support you, help you take notes, and remind you of any questions you may have.
Prepare for questions about your lifestyle and mental health.
Be prepared to answer many questions about your current physical and mental health, any past complications, and whether you have risk factors for mood disorders. They’ll also likely ask about your diet, exercise routine, and travel history. You’ll get information about what foods to eat and avoid and what vitamins to take.
Expect a physical exam.
“The health care provider will be able to measure your progress at the prenatal appointment by collecting basic information, like your pre-pregnancy weight, current weight, height, and blood pressure. Your doctor may also conduct a breast and pelvic examination, as well as a routine cervical smear (Pap test) if you are due to have one. In addition, you’ll likely get a request for full bloodwork to get blood count and blood type,” explains health writer Diana Smith. They’ll also do routine checks for rubella, syphilis, hepatitis B, and HIV.
Find out your due date.
Your health care professional will ask you about your menstrual cycle to help them find out how far into the pregnancy you are. Many women won’t have their first ultrasound until a few weeks later, around 11 or 12 weeks. However, some women, especially those with irregular periods or risk factors, may have their first ultrasound sooner. During this scan, you may be able to see the position of your baby and placenta, and your health care professional will take some early measurements to help establish how far along you are. You might be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat during the first scan, but many women don’t hear it for the first time until later.
Learn about first-trimester screening options.
Some women will get first-trimester screening that offers early information about a baby’s risk of particular chromosomal conditions, such as Down Syndrome, trisomy 18, and trisomy 13. The screening usually takes place between 11 and 14 weeks and often has two parts: the first is a blood test, and the second is an ultrasound exam to check the nuchal translucency, measuring the fluid beneath the skin of your baby’s neck.
Although you may be feeling nervous, try to enjoy this very special time in your life. Remember to write down any questions you have and don’t feel embarrassed to ask them. By the end of your appointment, which may take about half an hour to an hour depending on the type of health care provider you’re seeing, you will have started to create a pregnancy plan that will make the whole journey feel manageable and, most importantly, enjoyable.