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When should my first prenatal visit take place?
Q: We just took a home pregnancy test and discovered it was positive. Yeah! I called my doctor right away to schedule an appointment, but he doesn’t want to see me until I’m almost two months along. I was astonished as I thought there would be certain guidelines I should be following, even in the early months. Should I have been scheduled for an appointment sooner? And are there things I should be doing (or not doing) before my appointment?
A: Congratulations on your pregnancy. This is an exciting time for couples; like you, many of my patients want to come in immediately for their initial visit. Those with medical or obstetrical problems are offered appointments early, while I see healthy patients seven or eight weeks after their last menstrual period. I also start them on prenatal vitamins when they make the call and gladly answer any immediate questions on the phone.

The most important reasons I want to see patients who are between seven and eight weeks pregnant are 1) I can finally detect whether the uterus is growing, a sign of a healthy pregnancy and 2) I can perform an ultrasound to detect the fetal heartbeat. Although an ultrasound is not necessary, it is incredibly well-received by my patients. It is also a very good indicator of the ultimate success of the pregnancy. If the ultrasound detects the fetal heartbeat when a woman is eight weeks pregnant, the risk of miscarriage is reduced from 20 percent to 2 percent. Talk about a stress reducer for the patient!

During the first weeks of pregnancy, there are very few do’s and don’ts. Taking folic acid, in vitamins or food, is important. So is avoiding drugs, alcohol and certain types of fish, particularly shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

Although you’re understandably excited about your pregnancy, don’t judge the doctor too hastily. She or he is on target for scheduling your first visit. If you have concerns, call the office. I am sure any questions you have will be answered. I wish you good luck and a healthy pregnancy.