Doctor at desk with woman

Finding out you are pregnant is one of the most exciting moments of your life. With a little over nine months to prepare for the arrival of your baby and monthly (and then weekly) prenatal visits, it can feel like much of that time is spent in your doctor’s office.

Your first prenatal visit will likely be the longest as there are many questions both you and your doctor will have. Here is a breakdown of the first prenatal appointment:

Medical history

If this is the first time you have visited this doctor or midwife, you will be asked questions about your general health and the health of your immediate family. This gives the doctor an idea of any conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, which may affect the pregnancy. Previous pregnancies and current medications will also be discussed; all of this is useful in evaluating the current pregnancy. Your doctor will more than likely have you start taking a prenatal vitamin if you aren't already. Finally, you will also be asked the date of your last menstrual period, and this will help the doctor determine your due date. 

Physical exam

A pelvic and general health exam is next. The general exam will consist of height measurement, current weight, and blood pressure. These will serve as a baseline for future visits and, with the exception of height, will be checked at subsequent appointments. Your doctor will likely check your glands, eyes, ears, nose, throat, lungs, heart, breasts, and abdomen. A pelvic exam is performed to check the health of your cervix and uterus. If you have not had a recent pap smear, this will be done during the pelvic exam.

After discussing a variety of general health information, your doctor or midwife should give you a chance to ask questions.

Prenatal testing

Your doctor will likely order a variety of routine prenatal tests and lab work. Some of the tests that may be ordered are a complete blood count, tests to detect a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, and tests that check for genetic abnormalities. Depending on how far along you are, an ultrasound may also be recommended.

What to ask

After discussing a variety of general health information, your doctor or midwife should give you a chance to ask questions.  Weight gain expectations, dietary changes, and some of the changes you can expect your body to undergo should all be part of the information your doctor can provide. As this first visit can be overwhelming you may want to prepare a list of questions before your appointment. Some questions you may want to ask are the name of the hospital you will be delivering in, pain management options, and policies about labor induction, episiotomies, and cesarean sections. You will think up new questions at each visit so don't worry if you forget to ask something in this first appointment. 

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