Congratulations, mama! If you’re here, I’m guessing you’ve gotten your positive pregnancy test and are anxiously awaiting the first prenatal visit. It’s such an exciting pregnancy milestone that somehow makes the whole thing feel so much more real!
I remember the wait before my first prenatal visit felt like forever. I had no idea what to expect, either. How should I prepare? What should I wear? What do I need to ask about? What even happens at a prenatal appointment? I was completely in the dark.
The good news is you don’t technically have to do anything before the appointment! However, by learning about what to expect and brainstorming some questions and discussion points ahead of time, I can guarantee you’ll get way more out of the appointment and create a stronger bond with your provider right from the start.
Look no further, mama. Your complete guide to the first prenatal visit is here!
Prenatal Care During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, prenatal care is typically a series of regular visits with your OB or Midwife throughout the duration of your pregnancy. Prenatal care is an important aspect of your pregnancy that keeps you and baby safe.
These appointments give your provider a chance to monitor for possible complications, reduces your risk of pregnancy complications, and reduces baby’s risk of health issues. This is all thanks to regular monitoring that will help to spot red flags.
What’s more, if you do have a preexisting condition, your prenatal appointments allow for you and your provider to manage those through the course of your pregnancy, too.
Prenatal Visit Schedule
In low-risk pregnancies, you can expect to have about 15 prenatal appointments throughout the course of your 40-week pregnancy. Appointments typically increase in frequency as your pregnancy progresses. In the final four weeks, you’ll be seen every week so that your provider can regularly check for any issues.
Here’s how it’ll probably look:
- Weeks 4-28: appointment every 4 weeks
- Weeks 28-36: appointment every 2 weeks
- Weeks 36-Birth: appointment every week
If you have certain preexisting conditions, are over the age of 35, or if any complications arise during your pregnancy you may have appointments more frequently than outlined above.
Prenatal Care Is So Important
In a low-risk pregnancy, prenatal appointments can start to feel boring and redundant, but it’s so important not to skip out on prenatal care! In reality, boring prenatal appointments are actually ideal because it means everything is progressing with low risk.
According to the World Health Organization, babies born to mothers who do not receive prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and have five times higher infant mortality rate. That’s why prenatal care is so important, mama.
What Happens At Prenatal Appointments?
There are certain appointments during your pregnancy that will be a little more eventful, but there are a lot of things that will happen at every appointment that you should know about. Let’s take a look:
- Weigh-in: Throughout your pregnancy, your provider will keep a chart of your weight gain. Mostly, they will be looking for gains or losses from one appointment to the next that are far outside of the expected range. If the weight checks begin to be a stressor for you, ask if you can step on the scale backward and not to have weight discussed unless there is concern
- Urine sample: Be prepared to give a urine sample at every visit. At your first prenatal appointment, they will probably do a pregnancy test on your sample. In addition to this, and at every visit after, your urine sample gives your provider a glimpse at your overall health. It can tip your provider off that something may be going on such as: dehydration, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or other infections
- Blood pressure check: This is also a way that your provider will look for potential red flags that may indicate a complication like preeclampsia, hypertension, or other issues
- Listen to baby’s heartbeat: listening to baby’s heartbeat is always the best part of every prenatal appointment! In the beginning, when you are in the throes of morning sickness, hearing that beating heart reminds you why it is all worth it. Your provider will be listening for potential abnormalities that may require further investigation
- Talking time: During every visit, you will have the chance to ask questions and discuss your pregnancy with your provider. Depending on your provider, it may be up to you to make the most of this time. By preparing questions and discussion points ahead of time, you can really get the most out of the visit. Some providers are more personable and will ask questions to get you talking, but not all are like that. Remember, they have literally heard it all, so don’t be shy!
When Is the First Prenatal Visit?
A lot of mamas are surprised to learn that the first prenatal visit usually doesn’t happen until week 8-10 of pregnancy. But, it’s still a good idea to call your provider right away after getting a positive pregnancy test to get it scheduled.
They may ask to see you earlier than that, especially if you have a history of miscarriage, high-risk pregnancy, or other preexisting medical conditions. If you suspect this is true of you, be sure to bring it up when you call to schedule your first appointment!
What Should I Do Before My First Prenatal Visit?
Before your first prenatal visit take some time to research where you want to give birth. Yes! You read that right. I really do want you to research this right away.
By looking into where you want to give birth, you can better choose where to go for your prenatal care. You want to make sure you find a provider that delivers babies at your preferred hospital or birth center.
Take it a step further and learn a little bit about midwives vs. OBs and the pros of cons of each for your prenatal care, labor, and delivery. Knowing who you’d like to provide your care will also help you find a practice and birthplace that supports your wishes.
What To Expect At Your First Prenatal Visit
Your first prenatal visit will have all the elements outlined above, but mostly, it will act as a meet and greet with your provider. Here’s what to expect:
- This appointment is often one of the longest of your whole pregnancy
- Your provider will want to discuss a full medical, lifestyle, and family history
- Additionally, they will go over the dos and don’ts of pregnancy
- They will, of course, give you plenty of time to ask all the questions you want.
If possible, having your partner join you for this appointment can be really helpful. It gets them involved in the pregnancy right away and it’s awesome to have another person listening to info and asking questions.
Questions To Ask At Your First Prenatal Visit
Before you go in for your first prenatal visit, brainstorm a list of questions you want to ask your provider. By getting a list going right when you find out you’re pregnant, you’ll be sure to have all of your questions answered, no matter how big or small!
It could be about what’s to come, handling first trimester symptoms, or anything in between. Here’s a list to get you going:
- What would a healthy weight gain look like for me during my pregnancy?
- What foods should I stop eating?
- Are there any special nutritional needs I should be aware of?
- How can I pick the right prenatal vitamin?
- What do you recommend for managing first trimester symptoms?
- Is it okay if I can’t eat much of a healthy variety right now?
- How does my lifestyle need to change during pregnancy?
- Can I continue my existing workout routine?
- Is it safe to begin working out if I wasn’t already?
- How can I contact the office after hours and on the weekend?
- What would warrant a call to you during pregnancy?
- Should I schedule all my appointments with you or see a variety of providers in the practice?
- What do you recommend in terms of pregnancy screenings and testing?
- Am I at risk for pregnancy complications?
- What can I do to lower my risk of complications as my pregnancy progresses?
- How can I help my baby’s development.
Ready to rock your prenatal visits?
Well, mama, there you have it. A complete rundown of what to expect at each prenatal visit and some extra info to get your prepared for your first appointment.
Now you won’t be caught off guard when they ask you to pee in a cup and tell you it’s time to find baby’s heartbeat. You’ll also be thinking about (and writing down!) questions to bring to your appointment to get the most out of the experience.
Good luck, mama, and here’s to a healthy and happy journey to motherhood!
By Alli Wittbold