You noticed the early symptoms of pregnancy and took a pregnancy test.
Whether you’re looking forward to life with a baby, unsure if you’re ready, or certain that you’re not, it’s essential for your own health and that of your baby to visit a doctor. Health professionals agree that you should schedule your first prenatal (that means “before birth”) visit immediately after learning that you’re pregnant. Even then, most doctors will wait until you’re about 8 weeks pregnant to actually see you, unless you have a medical condition that may complicate the pregnancy.
Your First Doctor’s Appointment
But first, you’ll need to choose a doctor.
Your options might be limited depending on your health insurance plan. If you don’t have insurance, or never purchased specific maternity insurance, contact the Department of Health and Human Services office in your area. If you are a teenager, the Office of Adolescent Health offers funding for prenatal care through its Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF). Feel free to contact a counselor at Adoptions From The Heart if you need further assistance or guidance. Fill out our contact form here.
Which Doctor Is Right For Me?
After learning more about the options offered to you, you might be surprised to learn that you have several choices. In fact, there are four different types of health practitioners that offer care to pregnant women:
- OB / GYN – An OB / GYN (or doctor of obstetrics and gynecology) specializes in female reproductive medicine. They focus on pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Most pregnant women in America choose OB / GYNs as their primary physicians during pregnancy.
- Maternal – Fetal Medicine Doctor – Maternal – fetal medicine is a specialized branch of obstetrics (which is the medical study of childbirth) that focuses on high – risk pregnancies. They care for women with pre – existing conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, that may complicate a pregnancy.
- Nurse Midwife – As the name suggests, nurse midwives are certified to guide women safely through pregnancy. Nurse midwives are appropriate for low – risk pregnancies, and women who seek individualized care and expect to require less intervention in their pregnancies.
- Family Practitioner – Most general practitioners (the normal doctor you visit for ear infections, back pain, and other non-specialized medical needs) have experience with obstetrics. If you already visit a doctor that you trust, it might be appropriate to continue seeing them as your “pregnancy doctor.”
Now that you’ve chosen your doctor, schedule an appointment.
Here’s What To Expect
Your first prenatal appointment will probably be your longest. If the pregnancy progresses normally, most of your doctor’s visits will feel like quick checkups, rather than full diagnostic rundowns. It’s important to bring up any questions or concerns you might have to make the most of these visits. Try keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings, both physical and emotional, and bring it to your doctor’s office. If you take any medications, over-the-counter or prescription, bring them in and ask your health professional whether or not you should keep taking them.
But the first visit will be fairly extensive. First, your doctor or midwife will ask how you’re feeling, and this is a good time to bring up any of the concerns we mentioned a moment ago. Then you’ll be weighed; weight gain is extremely common during the first trimester, but your rate of weight gain can be a good indicator of your overall health, and that of your baby.
Blood pressure (BP) is affected by pregnancy, so your doctor will check that, too. Progesterone, a pregnancy hormone, makes your blood vessels relax, which means your BP might be lower than normal. That’s perfectly natural. Being pregnant can result in a condition known as “gestational hypertension,” which is essentially high blood pressure that only occurs during pregnancy. Your doctor will use the initial, first trimester BP to track your progress over time, and diagnose any complications down the road.
At some point, your practitioner will measure your belly. Outside of a certain range, this number can indicate a risk of gestational diabetes.
Why Does My OB / GYN Take Urine & Blood Samples?
Your practitioner will take both urine & blood samples. In urine, they’re looking for three things: protein, ketones, and glucose. The presence of protein can indicate a condition called “pre-eclampsia,” which is characterized primarily by high blood pressure. No one really knows what causes pre-eclampsia, although research suggests that it occurs mainly when the placenta fails to function properly. Ketones can indicate gestational diabetes, as can glucose.
Blood tests make sure that you are not infected by something that could affect your baby, and help doctors diagnose genetic diseases that may change the way your prenatal care is managed.
You’ll also receive a routine gynecological exam, checking for organs that may shown signs of illness. Your doctor might ask you about your lifestyle, and medical and family histories. Because certain populations are more prone to certain genetic diseases than others, they will probably ask about your ethnic background, too.
Finally, you’ll receive an ultrasound. You’ll be able to hear your baby’s heart beat, and see an image if you choose.