Your First Prenatal Visit
Laura E. Stachel
Your first prenatal visit could be your most exciting, and will undoubtedly be the most thorough of your pregnancy. It may be the first time your pregnancy is confirmed, your first opportunity to meet your doctor or midwife, and your first chance to learn what to anticipate in the following months. Invite your spouse or partner to your first prenatal visit, too. It’s an opportunity for both of you to ask questions about your pregnancy, and to begin preparing as a couple for what’s ahead. Here’s a checklist of what to expect at this special visit:
Medical history. Your prenatal health care provider will want to know all about your health and your partner’s health in order to provide the best care for your pregnancy. Look over the “Prenatal Health History Checklist” on this web site for details on what kind of information to bring to your first visit.
General check-up. You’ll be receiving a head-to-toe examination to evaluate your general well-being, including your weight and blood pressure.
Pelvic exam. A bimanual exam will allow your doctor or midwife to assess your gestational age by feeling the size and shape of your uterus. She’ll also evaluate the structure of your pelvic bones, and check for growths such as fibroids or ovarian cysts.
Cervical exam. Your cervix will be inspected to look for any irregularities or discharge. You’ll have a pap smear to determine if there are any abnormal cervical cells and tests to check for infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Blood and urine tests. You’ll receive blood tests to check your blood type, antibody screen, blood cell count, and to test for syphilis, hepatitis, rubella, and HIV (with your permission). Urine testing will check for bacteria, sugar, and protein.
Genetic tests. You may be offered tests to detect inheritable diseases, such as Tay-Sachs, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and Canavan’s disease. You’ll hear about options for expanded AFP testing (a blood test to screen for neural tube defects and Down syndrome) and, if older than 35 during your pregnancy, chromosomal testing (amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling/CVS).
Ultrasound exam. An ultrasound could be performed or ordered at the first prenatal visit. This painless exam uses sound waves to create a visual picture of your pregnancy, and is especially useful if your exam suggests your uterine size doesn’t match your estimated gestational age, or if there are concerns about the viability of the pregnancy.
Education. You will likely receive information about such topics as nutritional supplements, dietary guidelines (including foods to avoid), exercise, treatment of common ailments in early pregnancy, and an overview of what to expect during your prenatal care. You should also find out the procedure for having questions answered if problems arise between prenatal visits.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.