Making the Most of Your First Prenatal Appointment
Your first prenatal appointment is all about you and your baby, and it’s an important opportunity for you to get your pregnancy and birth questions answered. Be sure to keep in mind that the amount of information that’s available to you may vary, depending on your care provider. While there are exceptions to every rule, in general, doctor visits are shorter and tend to focus on recognizing and responding to problems in pregnancy. In contrast, midwives offer longer visits and care that is centered on helping you stay healthy and avoid problems. While checking on your health and that of your baby can be done quickly, the value of longer appointments comes from having an opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with your provider. By doing so, you can expect to receive care that fits your individual needs.
At your first visit (which may be spread out across two visits), you can expect to have a complete physical examination, as well as some blood work and other lab tests. While some tests are standard and necessary, you have the right to ask what tests your provider recommends and why, and to decline any that you’re not comfortable with. Although blood tests are not risky, sometimes the information you get from a test can be confusing or misleading, lead to more tests or cause unnecessary anxiety. If these test results won’t change the course of your care or your decision making, you may decide to pass.
Bring the date of your last menstrual period and the date you think you conceived (if you have a fairly accurate idea of when), as your provider will need these to calculate your estimated due date. If you have irregular menstrual cycles or can’t remember when you last had a period, your midwife or doctor may order an ultrasound to estimate your due date. Remember, your estimated due date, regardless of whether it’s determined by ultrasound or your last period, is just that—an estimate! Instead of focusing all of your thoughts on one day on the calendar, think of your “due month” as the two weeks before and the two weeks after your “due date.”
Your first visit will be longer than other prenatal appointments. If possible, bring your partner with you so that you both have a chance to get to know your provider. Come prepared to review your medical and family history. This is the best way for your midwife or doctor to know if you have any medical issues that will require close attention during your pregnancy. While your provider will be asking you many questions about your family and health history at your first visit, you’ll also be able to ask questions. Ask any questions you have about your care or your pregnancy, no matter how silly or trivial you think they may be. Most likely, these are the questions your provider hears most often!
Some questions you may wish to ask during your first visit include:
- Who do I call if I have a concern?
- How can nutrition affect my pregnancy?
- What can I expect during my prenatal care?
- What testing do you recommend? How do you support women to make informed choices about which tests to have?
- What are your views on weight gain during pregnancy?
- Can I expect you to attend my birth, or who else would be on call?
- Can I meet any other providers who might be present at my birth?
Read even more questions to ask when meeting with your care provider.
If you have a lot of questions, your provider may not be able to address all of them in one appointment, but your questions should not be brushed aside. Beware of providers who simply tell you what you want to hear or who treat you like a number rather than an individual. If something about your provider bothers you, talk it over. If the issue doesn’t resolve, or you feel uncomfortable with your provider’s philosophy and approach, consider finding someone else. The relationship between you and your provider is going to play a key role in your pregnancy, your preparation for motherhood and the birth of your baby. Make it a good one!