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How to make the most out of your prenatal appointment
If you're newly pregnant, you'll be seeing a lot of your doctor during the upcoming months. Your prenatal visits are an opportunity to monitor your progress, learn how to optimize your pregnancy and delivery and address any concerns that arise. Sometimes patients are disappointed by the care they receive. In this article I will give you some tips on what you can do to make the most out of your visits to your care provider.

1. Bring Your Questions
For the most satisfying prenatal visits, it's best to prepare. Think ahead—do you have any questions or concerns? If so, jot them down. Make a list, starting with your most important questions first. Bring it to your appointment, and be sure to arrive on time. If you have a lot of questions, try to schedule a longer appointment or plan on distributing your question over a couple of visits.

2. Do Your Homework
' It's reasonable to do a bit of your own research on topics that concern you. There are plenty of books and Internet sites with information on almost every aspect of pregnancy. Having a little knowledge in advance can facilitate your discussion with your healthcare provider.

3. Describe Your Symptoms
If you've developed new symptoms, be able to describe when and how you first noticed them, and whether your symptoms are changing over time. Pay attention to whether certain activities or positions make your symptoms better or worse. These details aid in diagnosis.

4. Take Notes
Taking notes is another way to enhance your appointments. It's not easy to remember everything your doctor tells you, and writing down key points can be helpful. If you're discussing a subject that's particularly emotional for you, consider tape-recording your visit so that you can review everything that was said at a later time. Or, bring a friend or family member to take notes.

5. Minimize Distractions
For the best communication it helps to minimize distractions during your visit. If you want to discuss an important topic, don't bring small children and be sure to turn off your cell phone.

Finally, it's very important for you to be comfortable talking to your doctor. If you have trouble communicating your needs, or you feel that your concerns are not being adequately addressed, write a letter to your doctor or enlist your partner to become your advocate at your next visit. Is this doesn't solve the problem, find a doctor with whom you can feel more at ease.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist