The moment you find out you are pregnant, all of your priorities suddenly change. The health of your baby becomes the main thing you think about during the nine months you are waiting to meet him or her. And what is the best way to make sure you have a happy and healthy baby? By making your health a top priority and getting the best prenatal care possible.
Prenatal care is the health care you get both before and during your pregnancy. Starting your prenatal care as soon as you know you’re pregnant, or think you might be, is crucial. Then throughout your pregnancy your doctor will schedule you for several check ups to monitor your health and the development of your baby. Don’t miss any of these appointments — they are all important.
The purpose of frequent prenatal care is so that you doctor can spot any health problems early. Your baby is growing and changing constantly every day of your pregnancy, so if the doctor spots a problem they can treat it early and prevent other more serious issues. Your OB should also talk with you about health, diet and lifestyle things you can do to give your unborn baby a healthy start to life.
What happens during prenatal visits?
During the first prenatal visit, you can expect your doctor to:
- Ask about your health history including diseases, operations, or prior pregnancies
- Ask about your family’s health history
- Do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test
- Take your blood and urine for lab work
- Check your blood pressure, height, and weight
- Calculate your due date
- Answer your questions
During your first visit, you should ask questions and discuss any issues related to your pregnancy. Later prenatal visits will probably be shorter. Your doctor will check on your health and make sure the baby is growing as expected.
Most prenatal visits include:
- Checking your blood pressure
- Measuring your weight gain
- Measuring your abdomen to check your baby’s growth (once you begin to show)
- Checking the baby’s heart rate
While you’re pregnant, you also will have some routine tests. Some tests are suggested for all women, such as blood work to check for anemia, your blood type, HIV, and other factors. Other tests might be offered based on your age, personal or family health history, your ethnic background, or the results of routine tests you have had.
How often should I see my doctor during pregnancy?
- About once each month for weeks 4 through 28
- Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36
- Weekly for weeks 36 to birth
Your doctor will give you a schedule of all the doctor’s visits you should have while pregnant. If you are older than 35 or your pregnancy is high risk, you’ll probably see your doctor more often.