Why Your First Prenatal Visit Is So Important
February 03, 2023
Whether you’re having your first baby or your fifth, each pregnancy is unique. Your initial prenatal visit with your health care provider is the crucial first step in a nine-month journey.
“As soon as you know (or think) that you’re pregnant, schedule your first prenatal appointment,” says Jennifer Carroll, MD, Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UH Portage Medical Center. “It will help both you and your developing baby benefit from a healthy pregnancy.”
Here’s what to expect at your first prenatal appointment:
Be ready for lots of questions about your overall health, surgeries and prior pregnancies. Know the date of your last menstrual period, which helps your provider calculate your due date.
You may also be asked about your lifestyle habits and family health history, explains Dr. Carroll. “This information helps your provider optimize your prenatal care, so it’s important to be open and honest.”
The visit will include a complete physical exam. This includes measuring your height, weight, and blood pressure. Your provider may also do a:
- Pelvic exam to evaluate the size and shape of your uterus.
- Pap test to look for abnormal cells in your cervix.
You will have a blood sample drawn for lab tests. Blood tests look for things such as:
- Blood type and Rh factor (a protein sometimes found on red blood cells). If your baby has the Rh factor and you don’t, it could cause problems for your unborn child. But you can avoid that by taking preventive medicine if needed.
- Anemia (lack of enough healthy red blood cells). When anemia is related to pregnancy, iron and folic acid supplements often help.
- Infectious diseases, such as HIV, hepatitis B and sexually transmitted infections. Each disease should be specifically addressed to protect your and your baby’s health.
You will be asked to collect a urine sample in a sterile cup. Urine tests look for things such as:
- Bacteria in your urine. This indicates a urinary tract infection, a common issue during pregnancy that is treated with antibiotics.
- High sugar levels. This may be a sign of diabetes, which needs to be well controlled for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
During the visit, there will be time to ask your own questions, too. “This is your chance to learn about healthy food choices, exercise during pregnancy, birth options or anything else that’s on your mind,” says Dr. Carroll “You’re setting off on a major life journey. Let your provider be your expert guide.”
Looking for more evidence-based advice for a healthy pregnancy? Our healthy pregnancy handbook provides detailed information on pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care, including a trimester-by-trimester guide, do’s and don’ts, pregnancy diet, prenatal tests and more.