Guide to Prenatal Appointments
Once you get pregnant, you'll probably become pretty chummy with the clinic receptionist. You will visit your clinic for prenatal appointments about 12 to 15 times throughout your 40 weeks of gestation. It's a lot. Here's a breakdown of what your visits will entail:
Visit One: This is a big one, so set aside some time. You'll want to schedule it as soon as you find out you're pregnant. You'll be asked to give your medical history, the doctor will estimate your due date, you'll have a physical (height, weight, blood pressure, etc.), blood tests, urine tests, and you'll discuss nutrition and other health concerns.
Other first-trimester exams: You'll hear the heartbeat, probably around ten or twelve weeks. And possibly have an Ultrasound. (Of course, each care provider is a little different, so ask your care provider what you can expect and when while you're at your first visit). Later in the first trimester, you'll have the option to test for Down syndrome. Also, just expect to provide a urine sample for every visit from now on.
Second trimester exams: Probably an ultrasound, if you haven't had one already. Make sure your bladder is fairly full! Your abdomen will be measured to estimate growth. You'll also have other options for screening for birth defects, such as an amniocentesis. Around 24 to 28 weeks, you will have the glucose tolerance test to see if you've developed gestational diabetes.
Third trimester exams: Possibly another ultrasound. Hepatitis B (another blood test– you'll be a pro by now). Also a group B strep screening done with a sterile swab used to collect a sample from the vagina and rectum. The doctor will determine whether the baby is breech around 36 weeks, and also if the head has dropped down to the pelvis. Your appointments will be closer together, too. Once you're 36 weeks, you'll probably have an appointment once a week.
There are a number of optional tests as well. Be sure to discuss the tests with your care provider and your partner.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of these prenatal appointments, here's a helpful tip: take a notebook or a journal with you. Write down all the questions you have and bring the journal with you to the appointments. Then jot down notes so that you'll remember the answers later (baby brain is a very real thing!). Also, write down other insights in your journal, such as your feelings or when you felt movement. Your partner will feel like part of the team, and you'll feel like you have a little control.