Proper prenatal care is a critical part of making your pregnancy as healthy for you and the developing baby as possible. Your medical team can spot any issues early, and counsel you on the best ways to prepare for labor.
Getting a positive pregnancy test is a big deal! Especially if you’ve waited a long time for this good news, you may be eager to get into the doctor’s office as soon as possible to make sure all is going well.
Many expectant parents are surprised to find that, in the very early stages of pregnancy, lots of doctors won’t even schedule an appointment. It’s perfectly common not to have your first prenatal appointment until you’re 8 or 9 weeks along, even if you found out weeks earlier.
Depending on your doctor’s office and health history, you may have a visit before 8 weeks to confirm the pregnancy, note your due date, and answer questions. Otherwise, retire your wine glasses for the next 9 months and enjoy the beginning of your pregnancy!
If you’re having a low-risk pregnancy, you can expect to see your doctor once a month or so until you’re getting close to delivery. At a visit, your doctor will check your blood pressure and the baby’s heartbeat and assess whether your belly’s growing as it should. Prenatal appointments are important times for you and your doctor to discuss any questions you have (such as how often you should feel the baby kick).
Good prenatal care is linked with better health for you and your baby, so don’t skip your appointments. During your second trimester, expect to have an ultrasound around the 20-week mark to look for any major abnormalities and let you find out the sex (if you want to). You’ll also likely take a test to screen for glucose intolerance and gestational diabetes. Taking your blood pressure and monitoring other symptoms can spot preeclampsia before it causes problems for you and the baby.
By week 28, you might be feeling the impact of pregnancy like never before. The cravings, the waddling, the insomnia! Your doctor will probably up the frequency of your visits to every two weeks until week 36. You’ll track fundal height to see if growth is happening on schedule. It’s also time to think in more concrete terms about labor and birth. Ask about hospital practices, write a birth plan, and talk to your doctor about pain management and any special considerations in your case, such as attempting a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC).
From week 36 on, expect to go in for a check every week. Your doctor may or may not actually check whether you’re dilated (frankly, it’s not comfortable, and you can walk around dilated a few centimeters for days without going into labor, so some doctors don’t see routine cervical checks as beneficial). You may also discuss stripping your membranes or trying other induction techniques if needed.
Of course, all of this assumes you’re having a fairly uneventful pregnancy. If health problems before or during pregnancy warrant further monitoring, your prenatal visit calendar may look different.
Going to a prenatal visit can stir up a lot of feelings. Some people find a lot of peace of mind in gathering data and speaking with a doctor, while others find medical settings stressful. You might look forward to hearing the heartbeat, or worry about missing additional hours of work before your baby even arrives. Leaning on your partner or another important person in your life is helpful whether you need to destress or want to celebrate every new milestone in your pregnancy. However you’re feeling about prenatal visits, these appointments are a valuable part of having the healthiest pregnancy for you and your little one.