What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Doctor's Appointment
byKathryn WalshApr 30, 2014
Congratulations, you're having a baby! Uh, now what? When the shock and excitement wears off, the first order of business is scheduling your first prenatal appointment with your OB/GYN. Your doctor will typically want you to come in for this appointment when you're about eight weeks pregnant. Schedule a celebratory post-appointment lunch with your partner, but give yourself plenty of time: this will probably be the longest doctor's appointment of your pregnancy.
In addition to the standard height, weight and blood pressure tests, your doctor should give you a general exam to rule out any physical issues that could affect your pregnancy. Expect her to check your heart, eyes, ears, breasts -- all the standard tests that are part of a normal physical. She'll also perform a pelvic exam at this first appointment. She may give you a Pap smear and take cultures to test you for certain sexually transmitted diseases.
Drink up on your way to the office. You'll probably be expected to provide a urine sample, which will be used to confirm your pregnancy and will be checked for any infections. Your blood will also be taken and tested for anemia, HIV, and other conditions, and to test for a blood protein called Rhesus, or Rh. If you're negative for this protein and the baby's father is positive, you'll need additional treatment throughout your pregnancy. Your doctor may also perform an ultrasound at your first appointment, or may wait until you're a little farther along.
She'll Question You
Get ready to share. Your doctor will have plenty of questions for you about your sexual and medical histories, lifestyle, birth control methods, alcohol and drug use, stress and previous pregnancies. She'll also ask you about your last period to help her estimate your due date. Your doctor should also give you a rough schedule of the following months, including how often you'll need to be seen, what tests you'll need and when.
You'll Question Her
Your doctor may offer unsolicited advice about what to expect in coming months and how to handle these changes, or you may have to probe her for input. Either way, she should give you lots of time to ask questions. Ask about how you should adjust your diet and medications, warning signs of potential problems and whether you need to make adjustments to your work tasks or upcoming travel schedule.
You'll also want to ask logistical questions about the doctor's practice. For instance, find out who will see you if need an appointment when the doctor's away and how you can get help or answers to questions outside of office hours. Although it's early, now's the time to start thinking about your labor and delivery options. Find out what hospital your doctor is affiliated with or, if you're interested in giving birth at home or in a birth center, if she's willing to work with you toward that goal.
If you're planning for a hospital birth, ask your doctor about her delivery philosophies. "You do not want to be finding out at 40 weeks of pregnancy that your OB routinely induces at 41 for no medical reason," says Los Angeles-based birth doula Emilee Benner. She gives clients a list of questions to ask their doctors. These questions include: "Under what circumstances do you consider induction a good option? Do you work with residents? If so, will you support my decision to not have them take the lead if I'm uncomfortable? Who provides backup for you if you cannot be at my birth? How do you feel about working with doulas? Are the babies immediately placed on the mother's abdomen or chest, assuming there are no problems with myself or the baby?"
After the Appointment
Just because you had your first prenatal visit with one OB/GYN doesn't mean you're committed to her. You deserve and require a doctor who you trust and with whom you feel comfortable and heard. Assess your first appointment as soon as it's over, and make a change if necessary. "Pay attention to language such as 'we don't let you' or 'you're not allowed to,'" says Benner. "It's completely unacceptable that grown women becoming mothers are still talked to this way [and] it should be a HUGE red flag if anyone is talking to you in this type of language!"
You may also want to make a change if you're uncomfortable with the hospital your doctor delivers in or if you don't get the sense that she'll support the type of birth you want. "Many hospitals can facilitate a nice birth experience, but it is very dependent on the care provider and hospital policies," says Los Angeles-based birth doula and certified childbirth educator Kate Zachary. "It's important that a woman has a great relationship with her care provider and a clear understanding of the provider's practices."
Now's the time to start reading up on pregnancy and your birth options. Zachary recommends the books "Mindful Birthing" by Nancy Bardacke, "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" by Ina May Gaskin and "Expecting Better" by Emily Oster.