For first time moms, prenatal care can be somewhat of a mystery. You may ask yourself questions like, “Do I go to the doctor the day after a positive home test?” or “How often will I be seeing my doctor?” Although it is confusing, prenatal care is very important and your doctor is there to guide you through the process from start to finish.
What is Prenatal Care?
Prenatal care is the health care you receive during your pregnancy. For your health and the health of your baby, it’s important that you start prenatal care early and continue it regularly through the duration of your pregnancy. Babies whose moms do not receive prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight than those whose moms receive care.
When doctors see pregnant moms regularly, they are better able to detect any problems that might arise. When they can catch them early, they are able to treat them early. Early detection of complications in pregnancy can cure some problems and prevent others. Each appointment is also an opportunity for you to discuss any questions or concerns that may come up throughout the pregnancy.
How often will I see my doctor?
Once you have a positive pregnancy test, you can call your doctor to schedule your first appointment. The office staff will likely ask you some questions including when your last period was. This will help them determine your due date and therefore how far along you are. Your first appointment may not be for a few weeks, but if you have any concerns you can always call the office with your questions. The office staff and your doctor will be happy to help.
Your doctor will likely recommend the following schedule for visits. This is the schedule recommended by most experts and unless you are older than 35 or your pregnancy is high risk, your visits will probably closely follow this recommendation.
- Once a month for weeks 4 through 28
- Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36
- Weekly from week 36 to birth
What happens during a visit?
During your first prenatal visit, you can likely expect the following:
- Review your health history including diseases, operations, or prior pregnancies
- Review your family’s health history
- A complete physical exam including a pelvic exam and a Pap test (if indicated)
- A blood draw and urine sample for lab work
- Blood pressure, height, and weight checks
- Due date calculation
- Ask any questions you might have about pregnancy and birth
- Review prenatal care recommendations from your doctor such as prenatal vitamins, food restrictions, etc.
As your pregnancy goes on, your visits will change and may include:
- Measuring your weight gain
- Measuring your abdomen to check your baby’s growth
- Checking baby’s heart rate
There will also be other routine tests throughout pregnancy. Some are recommended for all pregnant women and others will be recommended based on your age, personal or family history, or the results of other tests. These may include:
- Blood work to check for anemia, your blood type, HIV, and more
- Urine samples
- Amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, or maternal serum screen to diagnose or detect a higher risk certain birth defects
- Glucose screenings to determine your risk of or diagnose gestational diabetes
- Group B strep test
- Biophysical profile
- Nonstress test
Dr. Kristin Kruse is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist with Fisher-Titus Women’s Health in Norwalk. She is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has advanced training and certification in robotic-assisted surgery. Fisher-Titus Women’s Health is currently accepting new patients with same-day or next-day appointment availability in Norwalk and Milan. For appointments, call 419-660-2980.