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Think you're pregnant? Here's when you should see your provider
As soon as you suspect you're pregnant—or you know you are, thanks to a positive home pregnancy test—it's time to see your provider. That's the best way to ensure that you and your baby get off to the best possible start. Here's why:
Early and regular pregnancy checkups let your provider keep a close watch on the two of you, so he or she can spot—and treat—any problems quickly. These visits can help you have a full-term, healthy baby. So don't miss any checkup your provider advises, even if you feel absolutely fine.
Let's go through how you can prepare for your first prenatal visit and talk about how often you'll have them moving forward.
First checkup—get ready
Once your first checkup is scheduled, a little prep work can help you get the most from it. Be ready to talk to your provider about:
- The first day of your last menstrual period. This can help your provider figure out your baby's estimated time of arrival, otherwise known as the due date.
- Key health facts that could affect your pregnancy. These include any health conditions you have (such as high blood pressure or diabetes); your pregnancy history (such as past pregnancy complications or a premature birth); the medicines you take (including over-the-counter ones as well as supplements); and whether or not you smoke or use alcohol or street drugs.
- Any stress you're under. Don't sugarcoat your stress. High levels of persistent stress raise your risk of delivering too soon.
Remember—what you say is confidential, so don't be afraid to tell your provider about personal things. He or she needs to know all about your mental and physical health in order to give you and your baby the best possible care.
What you can expect from your first prenatal visit
Expect your first visit to be the longest—there's a lot to accomplish. Here's a preview of what to expect:
- You'll have a thorough physical exam. That includes a pelvic exam to be sure your pelvis and womb are healthy. Your provider will also figure out how much weight you should gain before your baby arrives based on your height and weight.
- You'll have a battery of tests. Among them: a urine test, bloodwork and Pap smear to check for infections and other possible problems that might complicate your pregnancy.
- You'll be prescribed a prenatal vitamin. This can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine.
Your provider might also do an ultrasound exam to confirm your pregnancy. So you might have a first peek at your baby! But you may not be able to see any distinct features until later.
A typical timetable
Just how many checkups are in your future? Assuming you have a routine pregnancy and only one crib in the nursery, this is a likely schedule:
- Weeks 4 to 28 of pregnancy: One checkup monthly.
- Weeks 28 to 36 of pregnancy: One checkup every two weeks.
- Weeks 36 to 41 of pregnancy: One checkup every week.
Yes, your calendar will be booked. But remember: Every visit is a chance to bring up any concerns you might have about your pregnancy—and get expert help in resolving them.
All about tests
Prenatal care involves a fair amount of doctor visits and testing. Learn about the typical tests performed during the first trimester.
Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; March of Dimes