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Your First Prenatal Visit: What to Expect

January 11, 2013

3373106750_2ddd4772d9_zAfter you’ve taken a home pregnancy test and confirmed that you’re expecting, you may be anxious to get to the doctor’s office right away! While you’ll certainly want to call your doctor to schedule an appointment immediately, your ob/gyn may not have you come in until you are eight weeks along, unless there are certain medical considerations.

At your first appointment, your doctor will review with you your personal and family medical history, as well as details about your menstrual cycle, any past pregnancies including miscarriages and abortions, and any prescription medication you’re currently taking.

Your doctor will also establish your due date by marking the date of your last period and counting 40 weeks into the future. You may also have an early ultrasound, which will allow the doctor to measure the growth and development of the fetus in order to confirm that due date. It is also possible, as early as eight weeks, to hear a fetal heartbeat. If the technician can’t make out a heartbeat, don’t panic, as you may hear it on a future ultrasound. But if you do hear that heartbeat, it can be a very exciting moment and a good sign that the fetus and healthy and the pregnancy is progressing normally.

In addition to a physical exam to check your height, weight, and blood pressure, your doctor may also check your vagina and cervix to make sure any changes are consistent with your stage of pregnancy. If you haven’t had a Pap test done recently, you may have one at this time. Your doctor will likely order blood work to determine your blood type, hemoglobin and hematocrit, and immunities and exposure to certain infections.

Before your appointment, be sure to write down any questions you have about lifestyle changes, do’s and don’ts, or symptoms such as nausea or fatigue. Your doctor will be able to recommend ways of coping with early pregnancy symptoms and will give you advice for a healthy pregnancy going forward. She will schedule you for a follow-up visit at 12 weeks, and may suggest that you return at that time for not only an exam, but also for screening tests for fetal abnormalities. If your family has a history of certain genetic conditions that can be revealed with early tests, or if you belong to an ethnic group that is at a greater risk for specific diseases, you’ll receive information on screening tests for those as well. Now is a good time to think about which tests you would like to have, and schedule them for the appropriate time.

Your first prenatal visit is an exciting one, and can be a bit overwhelming. Bring your partner or a family member with you, so that you have two sets of ears available to receive the multitude of facts, recommendations, and suggestions. And, at this point, get ready for your pregnancy to start feeling real!

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