You just found out that you are expecting a baby. The initial excitement is almost too much to handle, but after you’ve shared the wonderful news with your family, what’s next? Is it time to visit the doctor? Should I go to a prenatal clinic? These are some of the questions that new moms-to-be are faced with during the first month of their pregnancy.
It can be a scary time for most first-time parents, and there isn’t exactly an instructions manual that comes with a positive pregnancy test. Sure, you can seek the advice of friends and family who have experienced pregnancy, but it can seem like information overload even then.
To help ease the feeling of being overwhelmed, let’s discuss some things you can do during the first trimester to make sure that you and your baby are happy and healthy.
So how soon is too soon to start exploring prenatal care options? Most physicians or midwives will tell you that there is no such thing as too soon when it comes to your and your child’s health. In fact, prenatal care options should start to be explored right after you find out that you’re pregnant.
Prenatal care is considered preventative healthcare and includes regular checkups from a doctor, nurse, or midwife to ensure the health and safety of you and your unborn child.
You may be asking yourself why prenatal care is so critical anyway. Although it is not one hundred percent necessary, it is strongly recommended. Some women opt for only one or two prenatal visits before delivery and still have a successful pregnancy. Others prefer to go once a month. Regular checkups are a great way to watch the development of the fetus as it becomes a baby. It is also a great time to discuss any symptoms or discomfort you may have.
What Are Prenatal Clinics
Prenatal clinics are clinics that specialize in prenatal care for pregnant women in their first trimester. Prenatal care isn’t just about checkups, though; they can also provide education and counseling resources. Unfortunately, prenatal care is not always covered through insurance, and that is when the clinics– such as Planned Parenthood or March of Dimes–come in. These organizations offer low-cost or even free prenatal care (if you qualify).
Prenatal visits can vary depending on your physician or the clinic you go to but generally involve discussions about healthy eating, physical activity, screening tests, and what to expect during later trimesters and delivery.
Here are some things to expect during your first prenatal visit:
- Physical Exam (weight, blood pressure, breasts, heart, lungs are all typically examined)
- Pelvic Exam
- Determine your due date (typically 280 days or 40 weeks from the first day of your last period)
- Answer questions about personal medical history (prior pregnancies, surgeries, current medications, over-the-counter supplements, etc.)
- Discuss family medical history
- Determine whether or not any lab tests will be ordered (blood work and various screening tests)
- Discuss changes that will need to be made to your lifestyle (no alcohol, narcotics, smoking, etc.)
- Determine whether or not you have any risk factors based on the topics listed above
After your initial visit, you and your healthcare provider will set up future appointments to monitor the baby’s development. After the first trimester and as the due date gets closer, appointments may increase as follows:
- Every 4-6 weeks until 28 weeks
- Every 2 to 3 weeks from 28 to 36 weeks
- Weekly from 36 weeks until delivery
One of the best parts about regular prenatal clinic visits is that you can ask questions or discuss any issues that you are having. If this is your first pregnancy, you most likely will have a lot of questions at each visit, so it may be helpful to write them down (especially if you’re experiencing “baby brain” or difficulty remembering things). Prenatal visits are also a great time to discuss placenta banking or cord blood banking. If you are interested in saving your baby’s stem cells, the sooner you tell your physician, the better. Informing your physician prior to a collection allows time to prepare for your collection and ask additional questions if needed.