First off, congrats mama! Finding out that you are pregnant is such a life changing moment. You are probably feeling a lot of emotions all at once right now. And that is ok!
If this is your first baby, it’s normal to have a lot of questions and anxiety about what is to come. Even as a nurse myself, I really didn’t know what to expect at all having my own baby. Particularly those six weeks in between finding out I was pregnant and when I met with my doctor for the first time were stressful.
Knowing what to expect at your first prenatal appointment can help reduce a lot of that anxiety you are feeling and start your pregnancy off on the right foot.
Why is Prenatal Care Important?
Before we get into what to expect, it is important to go over why prenatal care should be a priority! Receiving prenatal care often and early in your pregnancy helps keep both you and your baby in the best health over the next 9 months. Even if you are in the best health of your life prior to pregnancy, your body will be going through a lot of changes. And you will also be growing a small human that needs a healthy environment to grow and develop
Your doctor or midwife will closely monitor you and screen for potential complications. You will also receive education that is important for each stage of your pregnancy. Most visits with your providers will be relatively quick, but they will make all the difference for both you and your baby.
When is Your First Prenatal Visit?
After you get a positive pregnancy test, you should call your provider and schedule your first appointment. Now every office is different. My doctor sees patients once they are at least 10 weeks pregnant, but everyone is different. Most people will have their first prenatal appointment somewhere between 6 to 12 weeks. This all depends on what your provider’s preferences, the availability of appointments, and when you find out you are pregnant.
What Should You Bring to Your Prenatal Appointment?
Here are some things I think you should have on hand with you at your appointment
- Insurance information
- Driver’s license or other form of ID
- List of medications you are currently taking
- List of health conditions that run in both families
- Your partner or another support person
First Prenatal Appointment
Now that we answered a few common questions, let’s get into what to expect at your first prenatal appointment
Basic Medical History
First expect to meet with a nurse or medical assistant before your doctor. They will take you vitals, height and weight, and start gathering some basic information from you. You likely will have to ask answer a lot of questions at this appointment so be prepared for the following:
- When was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?
- Are you currently on birth control?
- Have you had any previous pregnancies? Miscarriages?
- What medications (if any) are you currently taking?
- Do you have any allergies to medications
- Do you have any health history your care team should know about?
- Do you have any family health history they should be aware of?
- Any other important information for the doctor to know?
Meeting Your Doctor
After completing intake your doctor (or midwife) will likely come into see you. This may very well be the first time you meet so you will want to make sure you are a good fit. Talk and get to know each other. Do you feel comfortable around them? Are their ethics and beliefs in line with yours? Are they personable and enthusiastic about you having a great pregnancy and birth experience? Can you see yourself meeting with this person and trusting them with your care over the next 9 months? Are they open to questions and helpful in the advice they give? These are all very important factors in making sure you are receiving the best care for you and your baby.
Your provider will then go over the questions you answered with the nurse or medical assistant and make sure you are all on the same page. They will go over basic pregnancy information, especially pertaining to your first trimester. They will give you advice on how to keep yourself healthy throughout this pregnancy.
During this appointment, there will be time for you and your support person to also ask questions. Check out Best Questions to Ask During Your First Prenatal Appointment to get you started.
Next it will be time for an exam. First your provider will perform a basic exam on you. This likely will be repeated each time you come into the office and will include listening to your heart and lungs, assessing your abdomen, and measuring your weight.
Then your provider will listen for baby’s heartbeat. This is probably the moment you have been waiting for this entire appointment! This can be done one of two ways; either during an ultrasound or with an external fetal doppler. For me this was the most amazing moment and really sunk in that I was pregnant!
The final exam will be a pelvic exam and pap smear if you are due for one. While uncomfortable, this is an important part of your prenatal exam.
It is possible your doctor will do a few tests at your first prenatal visit to set a baseline for the future. These could include blood work labs, a urine sample, and maybe an ultrasound
Blood work — A few vitals of blood will be taken to comprise what’s called a prenatal panel. These tests includes your blood type and RH factor, Hepatitis B, HIV, Rubella, and VDRL. All these labs will be important information as you go throughout your pregnancy. They also may run a basic blood screening to check to anemia and iron deficiency.
Urine Sample — A urine sample will be used to confirm your pregnancy as well as check for an infection. Make sure to drink plenty of water on the way to your appointment to be ready to give this sample.
Ultrasound — When you doctor comes to see you, he or she will likely perform an ultrasound to confirm to measure the baby to establish an official due date. It is possible that the due date calculated does not match the measurements taken by your doctor. This could be due to a variety of factors and your provider will discuss this with you.
After all of that you will have completed your first prenatal visit! Not too bad right? Now you can schedule your next appointment in about a month and start to really enjoy the fact you are pregnant!
Prenatal care is very important for both you and your baby and should be a priority throughout your pregnancy. Make sure to keep up with your regular check ups as guided by your doctor and take good care of yourself! This 9 months will fly by before you know it.