Learn what goes on during your first prenatal appointment
Your first prenatal visit can be exciting and a little nerve-racking all at the same time.
Your first pregnancy doctor appointment officially marks the beginning of your pregnancy journey and the many appointments to come.
If this is your very first pregnancy, you might not be sure what to expect.
I know for me, my journey was a little different since I used IVF to get pregnant.
But, I was excited to go to my doctor appointments during this time to check for pregnancy and then to rejoice when I was pregnant.
This post will help you prepare both physically and mentally for your first prenatal visit.
When You Should See Your Doctor
Most commonly, your first prenatal visit will take place when you are about six to eight weeks along. If you have taken a home pregnancy test and it came back positive, call to make an appointment with your primary doctor.
They will ask you when the first day of your last period was to try and get you in you between that six to eight-week timeline.
If your regular doctor is not an OB-GYN, they might have you come in to confirm your pregnancy via a blood test then recommend you to another provider.
No matter when your pregnancy is actually confirmed, as soon as you suspect that you are pregnant, you should start acting accordingly. This means no drinking, smoking, cutting back on caffeine, etc.
Your first appointment is going to take the longest (around an hour) as your doctor will need more information on you and will include a variety of exams.
So Much Paperwork…
If you are seeing a new doctor, this will be even more so. While many health care facilities can pull records from other doctors and providers, you will still likely have a stack of paperwork to fill out when you first arrive.
Make sure you get there a little earlier than your actual scheduled appointment time and that you have all of your information handy when you go in so you aren’t leaving out any key details.
This includes your personal medical, mental health, gynecological, and obstetrical histories, as well as exposure to potential diseases.
Answer any and all questions on all of the paperwork, even if you might feel embarrassed or uncomfortable answering it.
Ensuring that your doctor is in the know about any potential issues will give you the best opportunity for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
This can include any previous pregnancies, complications or losses, PMS symptoms, sexually transmitted diseases, previous surgeries, mental illnesses or anything else.
You will also need to jot down any medications that you are currently taking. Your doctor will also need to know about your family’s health history, as well as your partner’s and their family’s health history.
Bring A Notepad!
Don’t forget to write down any questions you might have.
Bring a little notepad and pen to make sure that you get all of your questions answered or take notes during the appointment for things you might need to reference later.
You are bound to think of questions before your visit, during, and long after.
When you think of something you should have asked the minute you walk out of the office, then make sure to write it down so that you can reference it for the next appointment and get all of your questions answered.
It’s also not a bad idea to make sure that your partner has a notepad of their own.
They might forget to ask you questions much less remember to ask your doctor. This is also a great place to take notes on your family history if you don’t know it right off the top of your head.
Here are some questions that you might want to jot down to ask your provider at your first appointment:
- How are patients managed past their due date?
- Who will deliver your baby?
- What is the procedure in case of an emergency?
- Is the hospital where you plan to deliver equipped with a NICU?
- What are the options for pain management during delivery?
- Are there certain childbirth classes that the hospital or provider recommends?
- How far in advance should you schedule your prenatal visits?
- How should you go about developing a birth plan?
As a side note, my personal recommendation for a childbirth class is the online Kopa Birth classes.
They are an online, all-natural focused birthing class that you can take by yourself or with your partner at your convenience.
Likely one of the first things that will take place during the actual pregnancy doctor appointment is a pelvic exam and a Pap smear.
This will allow your doctor to visually and physically examine your vagina and cervix, as well as all other parts of your reproductive organs. You should avoid having intercourse or douching at least 24-hours before your exam so there is not contamination of any kind.
The entire exam is made up of a visual exam, a speculum exam, the Pap smear, a manual exam, and a breast exam.
All in all, it should take only a few minutes.
The doctor will visually look at your lady parts to see if there is any cause for concern, such as irritation, redness, or discharge.
The speculum exam includes inserting a metal or plastic speculum into the vaginal opening to be able to actually see the cervix as well as take a swipe with a long cotton swab or spatula for the Pap smear. This helps to gather cells which the doctor will then send off to the lab to test for things like cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
Then there is a manual exam where the doctor will insert their fingers into your cervix and press down on your abdomen at the same time.
This helps to check for any irregularities in the ovaries or uterus.
A manual exam can also include a rectal exam, which is the same for a vagina manual exam except your doctor will insert their finger into your rectum to check for any abnormalities. Yes, this is uncomfortable, but get used to being uncomfortable.
Finally, this will also include an exam of your breasts to ensure that the doctor does not find any lumps that might indicate breast cancer.
Your first appointment will be the first of many different lab tests and blood draws.
A blood draw is done for multiple reasons, including, but not limited to:
- Checking the amount of HCG, or pregnancy hormone
- Test for your blood type and Rh factor (this is not done for the very first pregnancy)
- Testing for abnormalities
- Checking for anemia or low iron
- Check glucose levels
Checking your blood type will help to determine if you need a Rhogam shot.
If you are Rh-negative and your baby is Rh-positive, then this could cause your body to create antibodies that could attack the baby’s red blood cells. This can result in the baby developing anemia or in worse case scenarios, a miscarriage.
Blood tests also check for various abnormalities in the baby, from Downs Syndrome to spina bifida, a blood draw can help to detect these in the fetus.
If your blood tests come back that you have low iron, then this does not specifically indicate anemia but means that you can become more susceptible to anemia. In this case, your doctor might prescribe an iron supplement to bring your levels back up.
Checking your glucose levels can indicate if you are at risk for gestational diabetes.
If your glucose levels come back within a certain range, then you might require additional testing via a glucose tolerance test.
Hearing the Heartbeat
This is one of the most exciting parts of your first prenatal visit!
Depending on how far along you are, you might not be able to get an ultrasound or sonogram right away. Hearing the heartbeat is the next best thing!
It can take a minute or two for the doctor to find the heartbeat, so take a breath and don’t freak out if you don’t hear it right away. It is the most wonderful sound to hear your little one for the first time.
You can also listen to the sound of your baby’s heartbeat in-between visits with an at-home fetal doppler.
This is also a great way to share the baby’s heartbeat with others that are not able to make it to your doctor’s visits.
Generally, unless there is a reason to do an ultrasound, these are not done until about 18 to 20 weeks gestation.
At this appointment is when the sex of the baby can be determined. However, if there are any concerns, then your doctor might order an ultrasound before the 20-week mark.
If you do happen to get an ultrasound earlier in your pregnancy, then you will likely just be seeing a small blob rather than a baby on your ultrasound images. It’s still very exciting though!
Having an ultrasound early on in your pregnancy can help to determine how far along you are.
This is especially helpful if you were not great at tracking your period. The downfall of getting an ultrasound earlier on is that it will likely be transvaginal, but worth it to see your little peanut.
Your first pregnancy doctor appointment is exciting and will probably have you leaving with more questions than you came in with, and that’s ok.
Just make sure you are writing down your questions and concerns for your next appointment so that you remain knowledgeable and are able to keep track of everything.