Nothing provokes feelings of simultaneous joy and anxiety quite like seeing those two pink lines on a home pregnancy test. From the moment you discover you’re pregnant, your responsibilities as a parent begin. To set you on the road to a healthy pregnancy, one of your initial priorities is scheduling your first doctor visit. This visit is typically the longest, so set aside ample time for you and your partner to meet with your health-care provider.
The purpose of prenatal care is to monitor the mom’s and the baby’s well-being and to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, women who receive prenatal care are at a reduced risk of developing serious pregnancy-related conditions or premature labor. They also deliver healthier babies.
Schedule your first prenatal appointment 8 weeks following your last menstrual cycle, provided you’ve been keeping track. If you are unable to determine the date of your last menstrual cycle, call your health-care provider as soon as you discover you’re pregnant. Together, you can determine when to schedule an appointment, and she can estimate how far along you are through a series of internal and external measurements.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), deciding which health-care provider will handle your care is one of the most important decisions you will make during your pregnancy. A family practitioner provides general patient care, including routine care for healthy women and their pregnancies. An obstetrician-gynecologist completes an additional four years of training in obstetrics and gynecology after graduating medical school and can handle at-risk patients. Certified nurse-midwives care for healthy women during pregnancy, labor and delivery. They also handle post-natal check-ups. Certified nurse-midwives usually partner with obstetrician-gynecologists and refer high-risk patients to them.
During your first prenatal appointment, your health-care provider will gather a complete medical history. This includes obtaining information about your menstrual cycle, past pregnancies, prescribed and over-the-counter (OTC) medications and any family history of medical problems. She will check your height, weight and blood pressure, as well as perform a cervical and breast exam. A blood draw can screen for HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases. Blood tests also determine your immunity to specific diseases, such as chicken pox and measles. A urine sample reveals underlying kidney or bladder infections and may expose diabetes. Finally, your health care provider will cover healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise.
Your first prenatal appointment is the appropriate time to ask questions, so go prepared. Discuss with your health care provider all your concerns, covering everything from where to call after-hours calls or in an emergency to your fears about bleeding or cramping. You can also talk about what to expect during subsequent appointments.
- pregnant #15 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com