Prenatal care is important to maximize your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby. Going for regular prenatal visits gives you an opportunity to discuss questions and concerns with a medical professional. Your doctor or OBGYN will conduct tests to make sure you and the baby are healthy. Here’s what to expect when you go in for a prenatal appointment.
The First Visit
Although your home pregnancy test can be positive before you even miss your period, your OBGYN probably won’t schedule you for a visit until you are 8 or 9 weeks pregnant. Your uterus doesn’t change much in the early weeks, and a heartbeat can be difficult or impossible to detect. Home pregnancy tests have a high accuracy rate, so there’s not much for doctors to do early on unless you’ve noticed something wrong:
- Spotting or bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Severe nausea or vomiting
When you do go in for your first appointment, allow plenty of time. This will most likely be your longest appointment of your pregnancy. The doctor will:
- Ask about your family and medical history
- Check your blood pressure and weight
- Collect a urine sample to test for infection and confirm pregnancy
- Calculate your due date
- Discuss your current lifestyle (including habits to drop, like smoking, and your stress levels)
- Collect blood to determine blood type, test for STDs, and check blood cell counts
- Perform a pelvic exam
- Possibly perform an ultrasound (you may hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time!)
- Discuss genetic screenings to test for possible genetic conditions
- Answer your questions
If your pregnancy is healthy and uneventful, you’ll go in for a monthly visit for most of your pregnancy. As you reach your third trimester, your doctor will schedule you every 2-3 weeks, and weekly as you approach your due date. Exactly what happens during each visit will change as your pregnancy develops. Many of these will continue to happen at most visits:
- Check your weight and blood pressure
- Measure your growing belly (the “fundal height” can tell doctors if the baby is growing on target)
- Check the baby’s heartbeat and, later in pregnancy, feel your abdomen to determine fetal position
- Check your extremities for swelling
- Take subsequent blood or urine samples
- Perform any additional tests needed
- Answer your questions
It’s helpful to write questions down before your visit. Don’t hesitate to ask about anything. Your OBGYN can discuss remedies for common pregnancy symptoms, answer questions about sex, and discuss your preferences for labor and delivery.
Does My Partner Need to Be There?
You don’t need to have your partner present for a prenatal appointment. Many expectant parents prefer to be together when possible for prenatal visits, as it is exciting to hear updates about the baby’s development. If your partner works, it can be challenging for both of you to make it to each appointment.
If your partner can only make it to selected appointments, discuss together which are most important to you. For many families, the first appointment is an important one to attend together, since the medical team will go over a lot of information and it’s often the first chance to see or hear the baby. The ultrasound appointment around 20 weeks is another milestone for many families. At this appointment, the doctor will check that the baby is developing normally, discuss any issues with you, and, if you wish, disclose the baby’s sex. Finally, it may be worthwhile to consider attending as many early prenatal appointments together as possible in case something goes wrong. Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester. Especially if you have experienced a pregnancy loss before, it may be comforting to have your partner’s support in the early stages of pregnancy.