What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Appointment

You've taken an at-home pregnancy test (or five!) and see those two pink lines have announced that you have a baby on the way! Whether you have been waiting for this day or if it comes as a complete surprise, you may wonder, "What now?"

First, give yourself some time to let the realization sink in … you're pregnant! Next, you may want to decide if and how you'd like to share this information with the baby's other parent or any other trusted loved ones. 

While you may have a rush of adrenaline, the next step does not need to be taken in much of a hurry. Most people discover they are pregnant about two weeks after ovulation and are considered somewhere around four to seven weeks pregnant. This is because the first day of your last menstrual period is considered the first day of pregnancy. Most medical care providers don't expect to see patients until somewhere between eight to twelve weeks of pregnancy, so you will want to call in and schedule your appointment right away. Still, it may take a little time before you go in. 

In the meantime, here's an idea of what you can expect at that very first prenatal appointment! Specific care will vary from provider to provider. However, most practices are relatively standard as they allow your medical care professional to monitor your and your baby's health throughout your pregnancy. 

Vitals

Prenatal appointments will look relatively familiar to any other medical appointment. You'll be welcomed back, where a nurse or technician will collect your vitals, including weight, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. One thing that may differ from your usual experience is that you will be asked to leave a urine sample as soon as you arrive. 

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Urine samples confirm pregnancy, as well as help monitor important health factors that may indicate infection, dehydration, or other issues that may arise. There will be directions on collecting a clean-catch urine sample if this is a new experience. Still, you will do this at every appointment, so soon, you will be a pro!

As your pregnancy continues, you will visit your medical care provider more and more frequently. Additional measurements such as fundal height (how big your uterus/belly is) and your baby's heartbeat via a portable Doppler will be added. Still, for now, it's mostly just about you!

Intake Questions

Even if you are revisiting an office you've been to before, a nurse or technician will run through a list of questions for their records at your first appointment. These will include standard questions about your family history, past medical procedures and surgeries, and any health concerns they should be aware of, as well as pregnancy-specific questions such as the first day of your last menstrual cycle, any symptoms you may have experienced, and whether or not you are currently taking a prenatal vitamin. They will also take note of any questions or concerns you may have so that they can be addressed.

Dating Scan

The first day of your last menstrual cycle will be the initial gauge in calculating your due date, but because everyone's body is different, an ultrasound will be used to get a more accurate idea of how big your baby is and how far along you are in your pregnancy, giving you a better idea of what range you can expect to meet your newborn baby!

Most ultrasounds in movies will show some clear "jelly" squirted on the belly, and a transducer is pushed along the surface to get a peek of what's inside. While this is accurate for most ultrasounds, you may be surprised that a different technique is usually implemented for that first scan. Because your baby is so incredibly small at the beginning of pregnancy, an ultrasound technician will most likely utilize a transvaginal ultrasound, where a sterilized and lubricated "wand" is inserted into the vagina to reach your growing baby more closely and get an accurate scan. The ultrasound technician will take measurements which are then used to calculate your "official" due date, and most likely snap a few pictures of your little bean of a baby to take home and stick on your fridge and admire until your next ultrasound!

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Remember that your baby's heartbeat will still be too small to hear, so that will be something to look forward to at a future appointment!

Meet Your Provider

Many opt to continue seeing the same provider for their annual gynecological exams. Still, suppose you are in a new area or have opted to see someone specializing in pregnancy care. In that case, you may meet your medical care professional for the first time! Doctors, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, and even midwives are all qualified options for offering prenatal care. 

After your dating scan, you will have a chance to meet with your provider, who will introduce themselves, confirm important information gathered from your intake questions, explain the measurements taken at the ultrasound, and address any questions or concerns you may have. 

NOTE: Your first prenatal appointment is just one step among many as you prepare for the arrival of your new baby. Know that medical care professionals are a part of your team, and you remain your (and your baby's) best advocate. You should ask as many questions as you need to feel informed and comfortable. A competent and compassionate provider will not feel threatened by your personal research or questions and will be able to address any concerns in a way that makes you feel heard and assured. If your provider is not providing acceptable care, do not be afraid to search for an alternative provider, no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy. 

 

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