What to expect at your prenatal visits

What to expect at your prenatal visits

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How many prenatal visits will I have?

You'll see a lot of your healthcare practitioner during your pregnancy – that's why it's so important to choose someone you like and trust. Most pregnant women have between ten and 15 prenatal visits.

If you have a partner or labor coach, you may want that person to come to some of these appointments with you.

Typically, a mom-to-be will visit her doctor or midwife every four weeks during the first and second trimesters. In the third trimester, you'll be seen more often, typically once every two weeks until 36 weeks, then weekly until the baby is born.

For more information on what happens at these visits, see:

Second trimester prenatal visits (14 weeks to 27 weeks)

Third trimester prenatal visits (28 weeks through the end of pregnancy)

But the number of scheduled appointments you'll have depends on your medical history and whether you have any complications or conditions such as high blood pressure that warrant more frequent checkups. If you've had any medical problems in the past or develop any new problems during this pregnancy, you may need more prenatal visits than average.

Is there anything I need to do to prepare for my prenatal visits?

During the weeks before each visit, jot down any questions or concerns in a notebook so you'll remember to ask your practitioner about them at your next appointment. You may be surprised by how many questions you have, so don't miss the opportunity to get some answers in person.

For example, before you drink an herbal tea or take a supplement or an over-the-counter medication, bring it with you to your next appointment so your doctor or midwife can read the label and let you know whether it's okay to ingest.

Of course, if you have any pressing questions or worries, or develop any unusual symptoms, don't wait for your appointment – call your practitioner right away.

What happens during these appointments?

Your practitioner will start by asking how you're feeling physically and emotionally, whether you have any complaints or worries, and what questions you may have. Your practitioner will have other questions as well, which will vary depending on how far along you are and whether there are specific concerns.

The goal of prenatal visits is to see how your pregnancy is proceeding and to provide you with information to help keep you and your baby healthy. It's important that you go to all of your prenatal appointments, even if you're feeling just fine and believe that everything is progressing perfectly.

Your midwife or doctor will check your weight, blood pressure, and urine; measure your abdomen; check the position of your baby; listen to your baby's heartbeat; perform other exams and order tests, as appropriate; and closely monitor any complications you have or that you develop, and intervene if necessary.

At the end of the visit, your practitioner will review the findings with you, explain the normal changes to expect before your next visit and the warning signs to watch for, counsel you about lifestyle issues (such as the importance of good nutrition and avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drugs), and discuss the pros and cons of optional tests you may want to consider.

It seems like my prenatal visits are over before they even start. How can I make the most of my appointments?

Many women look forward to their prenatal appointments but are disappointed to find that, with the exception of the first visit, they're in and out of the office in ten minutes. A quick visit is usually a sign that everything is progressing normally. Still, you want to make sure that your concerns are addressed – and that you and your baby are being well taken care of.

Here are some things you can do to insure that your prenatal visits are satisfying:

  • Speak up. Your practitioner isn't a mind reader and won't be able to tell what you're thinking just by performing a physical examination. So if anything is bothering you, speak up. Consult the notebook of questions you've been compiling. In addition to any physical complaints you may have, let your practitioner know if you have any emotional concerns or fitness or nutrition questions.
  • Ask the staff about the administrative stuff. Save your questions about things like insurance and directions to the hospital for the office staff so your practitioner has more time to answer your important questions.
  • Be open-minded. When talking with your doctor or midwife, you should feel comfortable speaking freely, but remember to listen, too. Take notes, if you find it helpful.

And keep in mind that some days are busier than others. That doesn't mean your practitioner doesn't have to answer your questions, but sometimes a discussion can be continued at the next visit if it's a really busy day or if your practitioner needs to head to the hospital to deliver a baby.

At the same time, don't tolerate a healthcare practitioner who won't give you thorough answers, doesn't show reasonable compassion, or barely looks up from your chart. You and your baby deserve more than that.

Watch the video: When to Schedule Your First Prenatal Visit. Kaiser Permanente (June 2022).


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