Finding out you’re pregnant is a big moment. Whether it was planned or not, there’s a lot to think about when your test comes up positive. You might have a lot of emotions to process, plus a lot of practical factors to consider. Prenatal care should be at the top of your list, to help ensure the health and safety of both you and your baby.
What is Prenatal Care?
Prenatal care refers to all of the medical care you’ll need while you’re pregnant. There are a lot of potential complications that go along with carrying a baby, and it’s important to stay on top of your care and monitoring needs to reduce risks and help ensure a healthy, safe pregnancy. As soon as you know you’re pregnant, you should tell your primary care provider.
Getting Your Care Schedule & Choosing Your Providers
Your doctor will give you an appointment schedule when you inform them of your pregnancy. You might have to see your doctor more or less often, depending on a variety of risk factors like your age or health conditions you might have. If you need any referrals or resources, it’s a good idea to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Now is also the time to think about who you’d like to have on your care team during your pregnancy and delivery. Your birth plan will help you decide which providers you might need.
For instance, if you want to deliver at home or at a birth center and you are at low risk for complications, then you may only need to see a midwife and your primary doctor. If you think you’ll likely deliver in the hospital and want a medicated delivery, however, then an OB/GYN might be the best choice. You might also need the specialized help of an OB/GYN if you have additional risk factors that could cause complications during pregnancy.
There’s a lot to consider when planning for your prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal care. Think about what you really want from the experience, but be sure to have a backup plan in case something changes. Your safety and your baby’s safety should be the top priorities!
Your First Prenatal Visit
During your first prenatal visit, your pregnancy will be confirmed. This is to ensure that any home testing you used was accurate. Your doctor will also provide a due date, based on the information you provide.
This visit will also allow your provider to determine any risk factors that your pre-and postnatal care team will need to monitor and minimize. You’ll discuss your family and personal health history to provide a clearer picture of your overall health and potential for complications.
There will also be exams and testing during your first prenatal visit. Lab tests will be ordered, and your doctor will perform a routine exam. You’ll also need a pelvic exam during the appointment. Genetic testing is also an option.
Be prepared for a fairly long appointment. Your other prenatal visits should be shorter, but the initial appointment is very important for planning purposes. Your provider should also provide you with a list of pregnancy dos and don’ts at this time, including any vitamins to take and which foods to avoid.
Routine Prenatal Visits
After your first prenatal checkup, you’ll have visits scheduled at regular intervals with your care team. They will monitor your condition by taking your vitals and will track the baby’s development. Near the end of the first trimester is when a heartbeat should be detected.
As the baby grows, more lab tests may be needed. Genetic tests will be available as well. You will have the opportunity to get ultrasounds during your later prenatal visits and see your baby on a monitor.
Your provider will measure the baby and make sure everything is progressing as it should. If any abnormalities are detected, your care plan and birth might change to reduce the risk of complications.
Even later stage prenatal appointments will be all about monitoring you and the baby. Near the end of your pregnancy, your doctor will check the baby’s position and likely test you for Group B strep. If the test is positive, antibiotics will be needed during delivery to prevent the baby from being exposed during delivery.
Ask Lots of Questions During Your Pregnancy
You deserve transparency and clarity from your care team during your pregnancy. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions along the way. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. If you’re wondering why your doctor is restricting certain activities, ask.
There’s no harm in asking questions. Pregnancy is a long journey and you want to be as comfortable and safe as possible for your own sake and your baby’s. Make sure to choose providers who help you feel comfortable and who take the time to answer your questions. Prenatal care is critical!