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How to Take Advantage of Your Prenatal Visit

By AWHONN Editorial Staff

How to Take Advantage of Your Prenatal Visit

As soon as you suspect or know you’re pregnant, it’s time to schedule an appointment with the healthcare provider you will want to care for you and baby during pregnancy and birth, which will typically be either a doctor or certified nurse midwife. Here’s what you can expect during each of the three trimesters of pregnancy, and what you may want to ask along the way.

1st Trimester (weeks 1-12)

Green around the gills? Most (80 percent) women feel awful during this trimester. You may be moody and feel absentminded and anxious about getting to week 13, when your risk of miscarriage typically plummets to less than 1 percent.

At your first prenatal visit, your provider will calculate your due date, schedule blood tests, perform a pelvic and breast exam, measure your height and weight, listen to your heart and lungs, and palpate your abdomen for any abnormalities. You will see your provider every 4 weeks if all is well. This is a great time to exchange information and ask questions including:

  • How your provider will support your pregnancy and birthing choices?
  • Will you only see your provider or will you be rotated among other providers in the practice?
  • What tests are recommended and when will they be scheduled?

2nd Trimester (weeks 13-26)

Enjoy the burst of energy that usually starts around week 14. This is the time to take prenatal classes and get your nursery prepared. You’ll still see your provider monthly, and you may get your first peek at baby via ultrasound in weeks 20-22. This is a good time to ask:

  • When and how to get registered for labor and birth?
  • What options you may want to consider for pain relief during labor?
  • What classes your provider would recommend for you and your partner?

3rd Trimester (weeks 27-40)

Around week 32, you’ll likely step up to appointments every 2 weeks, and then weekly at weeks 35-36. Fatigue typically returns, so be sure to rest when your body says rest, and try to take good care of yourself. Also ask:

  • What are the signs of preterm labor?
  • When and who to call if you suspect you’re in labor?

Routine pregnancy tests & checks

Not including optional genetic or high-risk screening typically conducted in the first and second trimesters, or ultrasound evaluation conducted in all trimesters as needed.

WHATWHENWHY

BLOOD PRESSURE

Every visitTo make sure you’re not developing high blood pressure that could lead to a dangerous condition called preeclampsia

URINE

Every visitTo check for proteins and sugars in your urine, both of which increase risks in pregnancy

PAP TEST

First trimester; often first visitTO check your cervix for changes that could lead to cancer and for sexual infections that could complicate your pregnancy

BREAST EXAM

First visitTo check for any breast of nipple abnormalities or concerns

BLOOD TYPE AND ANTIBODY SCREEN

First trimester, and as neededTo check type; for anemia, rubella, or chicken pox exposure; Hepatitis B; sexual infections such as syphilis or HIV; and your blood sugar (glucose)

GROUP B STREPTOCOCCUS (GBS)

Third trimester, typically around 34 or 35 weeksIf positive for GBS, you’ll get antibiotics during labor/birth to protect baby

FUNDAL HEIGHT (VIA TAPE MEASURE) AND BABY’S HEARTBEAT (VIA DOPPLER)

Every visit, typically beginning after the first 8-12 weeks of pregnancyTo track your growing uterus against what’s typical, and to listen for any changes or abnormalities in baby’s heartbeat


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