Mom's first prenatal visit will probably be somewhere around 8 weeks after her last menstrual period. She should schedule a prenatal visit as soon as she know she is pregnant. Regular prenatal appointments throughout the pregnancy are important to ensure good health – and the baby’s health. Mom's prenatal care will include information on pregnancy and options for childbirth, plus lots of information and support.
Going to the doctor regularly will allow you to follow the process of your baby’s development. Most doctors’ offices also allow your partner (and maybe even supportive family members) to be with you during each visit.
Your initial visit will probably be the longest. The doctor will determine your due date. You’ll need to know the date of your last period and if you think you know when you conceived, be sure to mention it. If your doctor isn’t sure how far along you are, they may order an ultrasound. You’re likely to get a full examination, during which the doctor may include a Pap smear, weight and blood-pressure check, breast exam, and pelvic exam.
Your doctor will want to chat about you and your baby. The doctor will need to know your family history and let you know how to take care of yourself and your growing baby. It’s helpful to take notes; you’re bound to get lots of information that you’ll want to remember.
Your first visit is also a great time to come in with a list of questions you may have about your pregnancy. So we’ve got a list of questions to help you out!
15How Many Visits?
When you’re pregnant, you’ll have a whole slew of regular prenatal appointments to schedule. The first one is usually the longest, but the rest will be pretty quickly – usually just a quick check of your weight and blood pressure, examining your belly and, later, measuring it, and a chat to see how you’re feeling.
For a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, your doctor will probably want you to follow the recommended schedule of prenatal visits:
- Weeks 4 to 28: 1 prenatal visit a month
- Weeks 28 to 36: 1 prenatal visit every 2 weeks
- Weeks 36 to 40: 1 prenatal visit every week
Prenatal care is important for both your health and your baby’s. Be sure to stick to the schedule that your doctor suggests, even though it may seem like A LOT of appointments and time off from work. To help with planning, check with your doctor’s office to see if you can schedule a lot of your appointments in advance.
14Do I Have Any Special Risks or Concerns?
How often you see your doctor depends on your health and the health of your pregnancy. Your doctor will want to see you more often if you’ve had any health problems before your pregnancy, or if any problems develop during your pregnancy.
If you have any of the following risk factors, your doctor may want to see you more often:
Being 35 or older. Some doctors will refer to this as “advanced maternal age” but that doesn’t automatically mean you will have a risky pregnancy. However, after age 35, you have an increased risk of pregnancy complications and a higher chance of having a baby born with a birth defect.
Pre-existing conditions. If you have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure your doctor will want to manage your conditions so they don’t affect your pregnancy or your baby’s health. Other problems such as asthma, obesity, or anemia may also require more visits.
Some conditions may develop during pregnancy. Your doctor will monitor you for complications that can arise, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
History of preterm labor. If this isn’t your first baby, and you have a history of preterm labor or premature birth, your doctor will want to watch you closely.
13What Should I Eat?
Hold up! Don’t get too excited about eating for two. The average pregnant woman needs only about 300 additional calories a day. That’s about the equivalent of a slice of whole grain bread and a smear of peanut butter!
Now isn’t the time to diet, either. Avoid diets like Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, and so on. You need to make sure you’re getting plenty of important nutrients such as iron and folic acid. That means you have to eat from a variety of food groups - fruits and veggies, breads and grains, protein, and dairy.
Folic acid is recommended to prevent neural tube defects. It can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, black beans, and black-eyed peas. You can also get folic acid from fortified bread and cereal.
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and beans contain protein, B vitamins, and iron. Your developing baby will need lots of protein, especially in the second and third trimesters. Iron helps carry oxygen to your baby, and also helps distribute oxygen to your muscles, which can help combat symptoms like fatigue, irritability, and depression.
Since your growing baby requires a considerable amount of calcium for optimal development, your body will actually take calcium away from your bones. If you don’t consume enough calcium through your diet, it can lead to future problems, such as osteoporosis. Milk, cheese, yogurt, creamy soups, and pudding are all great sources of calcium. You can also find calcium in green veggies, seafood, beans, and dried peas.
And don’t forget your prenatal vitamin! Although your diet should be your main source of vitamins and nutrients, a daily vitamin can help fill in the gaps, in case you’re not getting enough nutrients.
12What Screenings Or Tests Do You Recommend?
Your early prenatal appointment(s) may include a physical exam, Pap smear, cervical cultures, and possibly even an ultrasound if there is question about how far along you are. Your doctor may also request an ultrasound if you are experiencing any bleeding or cramping.
Be prepared to pee in a cup and give some blood. You may have several lab tests done throughout your pregnancy, which will include:
Protein and sugar levels in the urine
Screening for rubella and varicella as well as vaccines if necessary
Cystic Fibrosis screen
Tay Sach’s screen
Your doctor may also want to talk with you about NIPT – noninvasive prenatal testing. These tests can predict Down syndrome and other trisomies during your first trimester, as early as 10 weeks along. A bonus? You can also find out your baby’s gender.
NIPT only checks for signs of a few of the most common chromosomal disorders. If you test positive for a condition, or have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may suggest CVS or amniocentisis as well. These tests can be used to check for any of several hundred genetic conditions, as well as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
11Can I Exercise?
Keeping up with a regular exercise regimen throughout your pregnancy can help you stay fit and feel your best. Most exercises are safe during pregnancy, as long as you exercise caution (see what we did there?) and don’t overdo it. Exercise can also help improve your posture and help alleviate some common discomforts like back pain and fatigue. Physical activity may also help prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress, and help increase your stamina – which you’ll need for labor and delivery.
If you were physically active before you got pregnant, you will probably be able to continue your activity in moderation. Don’t try to exercise at your previous level; just do what’s most comfortable for you now. A little exercise is better than none at all.
If you weren’t big on exercise before you got pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not it’s okay to start a new exercise program. Walking is usually considered a safe place to start.
10What About Weight Gain?
Yes, you’re supposed to gain weight during your pregnancy. But it’s important to know how much to gain and when to gain it. If you gain too much weight, then you’ll increase your chances of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and complications during labor and delivery. (Not to mention that the faster you gain weight/the more weight you gain, the higher the likelihood that you’ll end up with stretch marks!)
However, if you don’t gain enough weight, then you may run the risk of having a baby who is born too early or too small. (Or both!) Your best bet? To gain weight at a slow and steady pace. Gaining weight gradually is important as how much weight you gain because your baby needs a steady supply of nourishment for proper growth and development.
During your first trimester, while your baby is still tiny, you don’t need to gain much more than three or four pounds. However, if you’re suffering from morning sickness or nausea, you might not gain much weight at all. That’s okay, as long as your appetite picks up in the second trimester, when your baby will really start growing. During your second trimester you should gain somewhere around 14 pounds. In your third trimester, the baby’s will start to pack on the ounces, but your weight gain may slow down so that you only gain about 10 pounds or so.
9Do I Need To Make Any Changes To My Beauty Routine?
You probably don’t think twice about the safety of your beauty products. Women use a variety of moisturizers, lotions, cosmetics, nail polish, and hair products every single day without batting an eye. We don’t know much about how some of these substances affect babies during pregnancy, but you don’t necessarily have to ditch all of your favorite beauty products. Here are some safe swaps you can try.
Use phthalate-free nail polish or polish you nails in a well-ventilated area to limit your exposure to chemicals and fumes.
Instead of aerosol hairspray, consider using a mouse or gel to style your hair.
Sunscreen is important, but make sure you use a natural sunscreen or one with zinc oxide and titanium oxide instead. Don’t forget to wear a hat to protect you from the sun’s rays.
Be careful what acne medicines you use. Prescriptions such as Accutane, Retin-A, and tetracyclines are dangerous during pregnancy and can cause birth defects.
Some doctors suggest avoiding hair dye altogether. Other doctors think that only a small amount of chemicals are absorbed into your skin during treatment, and that it probably isn’t enough to cause any problems, but may suggest that you hold off on the hair dye until after your first trimester. You might also want to consider avoiding hair dyes and other treatments (especially those with ammonia) because the fumes may cause nausea.
8What Over-The-Counter Meds Can I Take?
Pregnancy can come with its fair share of aches and pains, so it helps to know what you can do to get relief. If possible, it’s best to avoid taking anything during your first trimester, when your baby is most vulnerable. Nothing is 100 percent safe for all women, so it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before taking any medication – even an over the counter product like those listed below.
Aches and Pains: If you have a headache, reach for acetaminophen. Do not take ibuprofen. If taken early in the pregnancy, it may increase your risk of miscarriage. It is also thought to cause damage to the baby’s heart and/or lungs.
Cough, Cold and Allergies: Medicines containing expectorants and cough suppressants are considered safe if you’re feeling under the weather. This includes medications like Mucinex and Robitussin. There are some natural/homeopathic cold remedies that you can try as well.
Do not take any cold remedies that contain alcohol, or the decongestants pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, which can affect blood flow to the placenta. Common allergy medications like Tavist-D, Benadryl, and Claritin are thought to be okay.
Tummy Trouble: Feel free to take antacids like Mylanta, Rolaids, or Tums for heartburn, a common pregnancy side effect. You can also take simethicone for gas and gas pains.
7What About Prescriptions I'm On?
Some medications are considered safe to take during pregnancy, but the effects of some medications on an unborn baby are unknown. If you were taking prescription medications before you became pregnant, ask your doctor if they are safe to continue. Your doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of staying on your medication. With some medications, the risk of not taking them may actually be more serious than the risks associated with taking them.
Your doctor will weigh the benefit to you and the risk to your baby when making recommendations about a certain medication. With some meds, the risk of not taking them may be more serious than the potential risk associated with taking them.
If your doctor prescribes a new medication for you, be sure to let him know that you are pregnant. Before you begin taking a new medication, be sure to discuss the risks with your doctor.
6Any Restrictions On Activities?
Being pregnant doesn’t mean that life as you know it has to stop. You may have to discontinue certain activities for awhile, but many of your daily activities are still safe.
You can still take relaxing soaks in the tub; just don’t make the water too hot, and don't use a hot tub or a sauna. Overheating can harm the baby.
Yes, you can still have sex. Most women who are having a normal pregnancy can continue to have sex right up until they go into labor! If you have any conditions or complications that make sex risky, your doctor should let you know. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor.
As long as you don’t have any complications or concerns with your pregnancy, it’s pretty safe to travel throughout your pregnancy. It’s suggested that women with complicated pregnancies – mothers at risk of premature labor, or moms carrying multiples, for example – avoid travel from 32 weeks through birth.
Some obvious activities to avoid?
Horseback riding – even if you’re an expert rider, it’s not worth risking a fall.
Amusement park rides and waterslides – a forceful landing and sudden starts and/or stops could harm your baby.
Bicycling – If you’re an experienced rider, you might be okay on two wheels for awhile; however, as your center of gravity shifts and starts to affect your balance, it can make riding dangerous.
5What Symptoms Are Normal?
Morning sickness is pretty common, but you can help treat it by increasing eating smaller, more frequent meals, sipping ginger tea, and even wearing seasickness wristbands. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of treating nausea by increasing your vitamin B6 intake.
If you find that you end up with heartburn, try elevating your head at night. If you find that you are prone to heartburn, try to avoid foods that can trigger it, like chocolate, mint, and spicy and greasy foods.
Hemorrhoids are a pain in the butt – literally. If you end up with them, you can try taking a sitz bath in warm water and applying witch hazel (found in drug stores) on the area with a cotton ball. The witch hazel is an astringent and will help reduce any inflammation.
Call your doctor right away if you experience any unusual symptoms such as bleeding, cramping especially if it's on one side, regular contractions that are ten minutes (or less) apart, sudden swelling in your feet, legs, or hands, or severe headaches.
4Are You The Doctor Who Will Handle My Delivery?
Don't assume that the doctor you always see for your appointments will be the one to deliver your baby. Emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances (and even vacations) happen all the time. It’s a good idea to ask about a “Plan B” ahead of time, just in case someone else will be the one handling your delivery. Perhaps try to meet with other doctors in your practice to see if you’re comfortable with them, and to get to know them – because you don’t know who you’ll end up with in the delivery room!
Some practices even rotate doctors so that all patients see several doctors throughout their pregnancy. An advantage to this type of practice is that you’ll get to meet a lot of the doctors, and hopefully will get to know them before the big day arrives. The disadvantage? You might not like your doctor, and you might not necessarily have a choice in who delivers your baby.
3How Do You Feel About The Following...?
How do you feel about inductions, C-sections, epidural and pain management, episiotomies, vaccum and forceps-assisted delivery, cord clamping…
Throughout your pregnancy, you may be envisioning how your labor and delivery will go. You may already have preferences for how you would like to give birth, so it’s a good idea to talk things over with your doctor to make sure you are on the same page.
Doctors have been trained, they have a routine and procedures, and they want what is best for you and your baby. But it doesn’t hurt to let them know things you would like to do, or things you would like to avoid, during childbirth.
Ask your doctor about creating a birth plan. It’s a good way to spell out your wishes in advance. It’s helpful for everyone involved in the delivery of your baby, and lets everyone know ahead of time what type of birth you are going for. You can list your labor and delivery preferences, but it’s also helpful to be flexible. Remember, things don’t always go as planned. But a birth plan is a good place to start.
2How Do I Know If I'm Going Into Labor And When Do I Call You?
The signs that you are going into labor aren’t always crystal clear. You’ve probably seen a movie where a pregnant woman’s water breaks – but it’s not always the big splash that it sounds like. Because your baby is in a heads-down position, his head may prevent a lot of fluid from leaking out. A very small percentage of women report that their water broke before they started having contractions, so don’t count on this as a sign that your labor is beginning.
As your cervix begins to soften and dilate, the mucus plug, which has been holding the cervix closed, may loosen up and fall out. At times, it may come out as a blob or just a smear of mucus. As the cervix opens, the mucus may be tinted with blood. For some women, this can be a sign that labor is hours away; for other women, they never even notice it.
If you feel serious back pain, it could be that your baby has begun his descent into the birth canal – and his head is pressing right into your spine. Known as “back labor,” this is a sign that it’s almost time to deliver. If you’re feeling cramps or contractions that are getting increasingly more intense and more frequent, it might be time to call the doctor.
Every doctor will have his own set of directions for what to do when you think you are going into labor, so be sure to ask about it and write them down. And be sure to have the number of the office on you at all times!
1Can I Call Or E-Mail If I Have More Questions?
You may have lots of questions throughout your pregnancy. Ask up front who you can call when a question comes to mind. Some doctors may work with a nurse that can help you out. Or your office may have a nurse line where you can call with a (non-urgent) message and someone will get back to you when they’re available. Some offices may also have a secure doctor-to-patient e-mail system so that you can send a question to your doc whenever something comes up.
Here’s a good idea. Keep a small notebook handy and write down any and all minor questions that you have in between doctor visits. Chances are, at your next appointment, your doctor will ask if you have any questions or concerns. Whip out your notebook and ask away! Jot down the doctor’s answers so that you don’t have to try to remember what the doctor said later.
Sources: Parenting, Parents, Fit Pregnancy, What to Expect, WebMD, Baby Center
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