You're already expecting pregnancy to be an overwhelming experience, but it's not just the variety of physical and emotional changes you're anxious about — you'll also be going through a lot of check ups with your doctor. If the very thought of all those appointments makes you nervous, it's understandable. But knowing what you can expect at your first prenatal visit will help ease your mind and make you feel more prepared.
Romper spoke with Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, an OB-GYN at Atlanta Women’s Healthcare Specialists and President of Georgia Maternal and Infant Health Research Group, who says, "The first visit can be both exciting and overwhelming as it is the first step in a journey that includes pregnancy, delivery, and ultimately welcoming a new member into your family." Oh. No big deal, then.
Zertuche explains that your obstetrician may or may not do an exam or an ultrasound at your first appointment, but they will certainly cover a number of topics, including your expected due date, the structure of the practice, and the anticipated schedule of upcoming visits. Your doctor may also talk to you about any food, medication, or travel restrictions, along with diet, exercise, or weight gain recommendations.
Your doctor will also bring up any red flags in your medical history that may increase your risk of pregnancy complications, explains Zertuche, which might require extra monitoring. During this first visit, you'll also find out about any recommended or option lab tests which screen for an abnormal number of chromosomes in the baby, birth defects, neural tube defects, and genetic diseases. You'll also learn about any recommended ultrasounds for each trimester of your pregnancy.
You should also prepare yourself to be slightly poked and prodded. At your first prenatal visit, explained Medline Plus, your doctor will probably draw blood for lab testing, do a full pelvic exam, and perform a pap smear to make sure there are no infections or complications.
Feeling overwhelmed? It's normal, but according to Zertuche, there's not much preparation needed for your first visit. She does suggest, however, that you talk to your partner beforehand about whether you want to do any additional screenings during your pregnancy. Some parents may decide to pursue screenings, she explains, because they may want to either terminate the pregnancy or prepare for expected health care if abnormalities are found in their baby. Other parents, she notes, do not want to pursue screenings because they would rather take things as they come, regardless of test results.
“Your obstetrician will also give you a chance to ask questions,” explains Zertuche, “so make sure that you come prepared with any that have been on your mind.” While you may be anxious about your first prenatal visit (that's totally expected), you can at least take comfort in knowing that you’ll get plenty of answers, along with a clearer view of what your pregnancy journey will look like. And hey, soon you'll get to actually see your baby at these appointments, so it's not always pamphlets and blood draws.