Prenatal Care: Your First Prenatal Visit

After you've decided which practitioner you'll feel the most comfortable with, it will then be time to schedule your first prenatal visit. If you've chosen a medical doctor, there are some common assumptions you can make about what will happen at your first prenatal visit.

After you've finished jumping for joy, the first thing you need to do is find a doctor. There are four different types of physicians who deliver babies.

  • An Ob/Gyn, who has special training in obstetrics and gynecology. Most pregnant women go to this type of practitioner.
  • A maternal fetal medicine doctor, trained in obstetrics and gynecology and also in high-risk pregnancies.
  • A nurse midwife. Trained in caring for pregnant women and delivering babies. Women who seek out this type of practitioner tend to have lower risk.
  • A family practitioner, trained to care for families throughout their lives, including obstetrics.

The important thing though is to be comfortable with the person that you've chosen regardless of the type of practitioner they are. You want somebody that you feel comfortable going to with your problems and concerns," says Keith Eddleman, M.D., who runs an Ob/Gyn practice in New York, with his partner Joanne Stone, M.D. The two co-authored the book Pregnancy For Dummies.

What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Visit

The first thing you'll have to do is weigh in. It's common for most women to gain weight during the first trimester, so don't be surprised.

Second, your doctor will take your blood pressure, a urine sample and draw some blood. This helps detect any problems that could affect your health or your baby's.

Third, you'll receive a routine gynecological exam. "Your doctor will ask you a lot of questions at that first appointment," says Stone. "No, she's not prying. She's just trying to get the kind of information she needs to give you the best medical care. So when she asks about your lifestyle, gynecological history and family background, give her the whole story."

Also be sure to provide your ethnic background, adds Stone. "I always ask patients...not because I'm nosy, but because there are certain genetic diseases that are more common among different populations."

At the first appointment, you'll also find out just how pregnant you are. And your doctor may discuss the different prenatal tests that are available to ensure that the fetus is healthy, including ultrasound which can help screen for certain problems and amniocentesis, which detects chromosomal abnormalities in a fetus.

Perhaps the most exciting part of that first visit is listening to the baby's heartbeat for the very first time. "We always document that there's a heartbeat there," says Stone. "It's really important at every OB visit that we make sure that we can show the mother that everything is going fine."

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Keith Eddleman, M.D., is director of prenatal diagnosis in the division of maternal-fetal at Mount Sinai. He teaches medical students, residents and fellows and lectures throughout the world. His areas of expertise are ultrasound and reproductive genetics.

Joanne Stone, M.D., is director of the perinatal ultrasound unit at Mount Sinai and cares for patients with problem pregnancies.

For more information on "Pregnancy For Dummies®", or other books, visit Dummies.com.