If you’re pregnant for the first time, you might not know exactly what to expect and how to prepare for your kiddo. It’s an exciting and scary experience knowing that you’re growing a whole human being and your body knows exactly what to do! The reality is humans have been successfully having babies for thousands of years, but for millions of parents across time, having a baby was a life-threatening experience. But as science has progressed, parents have celebrated lower infant mortality rates and healthier pregnancies by heeding the advice of their doctors.
Today, there is plenty that new parents can do to improve their chances of having a healthy baby and smooth pregnancy through close communication and cooperation with their medical provider. Here are some of the main doctor visits you can plan for as you nurture your growing baby.
What To Expect While You’re Pregnant
Choose a Provider
Before you start thinking about the healthcare appointments to book, make sure you’ve chosen a healthcare provider. If you already have a medical provider you know and trust, we recommend continuing your relationship with them through and after your pregnancy.
If you don’t have established care yet, there a various medical professionals you can work with while you’re pregnant:
1. A family nurse practitioner (also called FNP) who has the necessary education and training to take care of every member of your family, including pregnant women.
2. A certified nurse-midwife (also called CNM) is a nurse with education and training to take care of women of all ages, but specializes in caring for pregnant women.
3. A family practice doctor (also called a family physician) is a medical doctor who is trained to care for you before, during and after pregnancy.
4. A maternal-fetal medicine (also called MFM) specialist is an OB with education and training to take care of women who have high-risk pregnancies. If you have health conditions that may cause problems during pregnancy, your provider may want you to see a MFM specialist. The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine can help you find a specialist in your area.
5. An obstetrician/gynecologist (also called OB/GYN) is a doctor who’s trained to take care of pregnant women and deliver babies.
Your medical practitioner will schedule your appointments based on the stage of your pregnancy and their evaluation of yours and your baby’s health.
While your doctor might offer a different frequency of medical visits, here is the typical schedule of prenatal appointments you can expect:
Pregnancy Stage: Weeks 4 to 28 of pregnancy
Monthly check ups
During those appointments, your medical provider will do a number of things:
* Check your overall health including your weight and height relative to your stage of pregnancy, blood, blood pressure and urine.
* Perform a pelvic exam and a Pap smear to ensure your vaginal canal is healthy.
* Ensure you’re up to date on your vaccinations and prenatal vitamins.
* Typically around 20 weeks a full anatomy ultrasound is performed, where multiple measurements are taken and the baby is assessed in great detail to ensure proper development of all body parts and organs, at this ultrasound we are typically able to determine gender as well. (Not sure if you want to include information on this or not, but thought I would add this info if you choose to include it in the article.)
Pregnancy Stage: Weeks 28 to 36 of pregnancy
Check up every two weeks
During these appointments, you can expect all of the check-ups you were administered in your 4-28 week appointments, but your doctor may also:
* Check your baby’s heartbeat.
* Measure your stomach to check your baby’s growth.
* Provides prenatal tests to check you and your baby via ultrasound and manual tests.
* Administer a Tdap vaccination at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. This vaccination protects both you and your baby against pertussis (also called whooping cough).
* Administer a glucose screening test to see if you may have gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that some women get during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Stage: Weeks 36 to 41 of pregnancy
Weekly check ups
Whew, you’re finally in the last trimester of your pregnancy! Your doctor will administer the check ups you’ve experienced in previous appoints, but they’ll also:
* Feel your stomach to check your baby’s position in the womb.
* Check the amount of amniotic fluid around your baby in the womb via ultrasound.
* Check for group B strep, an infection you can pass to your baby.
Prepare For Your Appointment
Before you go to your first appointment, bring a few pieces of information to the table so your doctor has the best, most detailed information for your check up, including:
1. Your initial concerns about your pregnancy; what are you stressed or nervous about. Your medical provider can help address and potentially assuage your concerns.
2. An accurate summary of your smoking and drinking habits so your doctor can best advise any necessary adjustments to help keep your baby healthy.
3. A list of your prescription medications and any over-the-counter drugs you take. Some medications can pose a health risk to your baby so make sure they know of everything you currently take.
4. Your pregnancy history including whether or not you’ve been pregnant before, any complications, or known pregnancy risks.
5. Any health conditions you have, like depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes since these conditions can cause problems during pregnancy.
6. A summary of your lifestyle including your diet, exercise habits, lifestyle stressors and any chemicals you use at home or work. These conditions can affect your baby and your pregnancy so be upfront about them so your doctor can best guide you.
What To Expect After Pregnancy
Once your baby is born, you’ll still be required to attend 20-30 minute postnatal appointments to check in on you and your new kiddo! Don’t try scheduling out your postnatal appointments, though. You never know when your baby will actually be born!
Your medical provider will likely recommend you attend a well-baby visit within the first week after birth, usually within the first few days. Your baby is brand new to the world and getting the hang of this strange new environment. Likewise, whether this is your first or third baby, this kiddo is new to you and it’s important to have support early on.
You’ll be asked to schedule an appointment for you and your baby for months 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 24 months of your baby’s life. That sounds like a lot of visits, but these appointments are vital. It’s an opportunity for your doctor to spot, treat and usually remedy any little problems before they get bigger.
Prepare For Your Appointment
During these visits, expect manual check ups as well as immunizations and medical advice for you to best care for your growing baby.
As with your first prenatal appointment, your doctor will likely do a few main things, including measuring your baby’s weight, length and head circumference; heartbeat, hips, legs, arms, back and spine to make sure they’re moving, growing and developing normally; eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat, neck and underarms; genitals for hernias or undescended testicles; reflexes; skin color and tone.
Since you’ll be seeing your doctor every few months in the first two years of your baby’s life, remember to prepare well for the appointments. For instance, write down and bring baby-related questions you have, updated insurance information, a favorite toy, a ready-to-serve bottle if you’re bottle-feeding or snacks for your baby, a change of clothes, diapers and wipes, burp cloths, a teething ring or pacifier, and a blanket to make the exam table more comfortable.
At The Source, we offer a wide range of pre- and post-pregnancy services free or at low-cost. If you’re pregnant or think you might be pregnant, come see us! Click the image below to book a 30-minute appointment.