What Should I Expect From My First Prenatal Checkup?

Once you’ve taken a home pregnancy test or had a blood test to confirm that you are expecting a baby, it will be time to schedule your first prenatal appointment. Prenatal care is extremely important to the health and well-being of you and your baby, and should be a regular part of your pregnancy experience for the next months until you deliver. You and your partner should talk about whether or not both of you want to attend these appointments. Most obstetricians will schedule this appointment for 8-10 weeks after the first date of your last period. This can be an exciting time, but you also might have some questions and concerns about what to expect at this first prenatal checkup.

Preparing for the Appointment

Before you go in to your first prenatal appointment, take some time to gather some important information that your doctor will use to make a complete assessment of your health and needs as an expectant mother.

Personal Health History – Your doctor will need to know about various aspects of your personal health history. Make sure that your obstetrician has access to copies of all of your medical records, which you should have sent to the office ahead of time so that your doctor will have everything needed. Also make sure that you gather the following information:

  • A list of all medications you currently use, as well as any significant medication or drug use in the past
  • A list of all vitamins and over the counter medications and supplements you are using
  • Allergies, including to medications, foods, or other things – especially latex
  • Vaccination history – which should be a part of your medical record
  • History of diseases and infections (Chicken Pox, STDs, Strep, cancer, etc.)
  • A list of any exposures that might affect your health or the health of your baby. This includes second-hand smoke, possible lead poisoning from old paint in homes, or radiation.
  • A calendar of your recent menstrual cycle
  • A list of questions you might have about your pregnancy – there are no bad questions
Image Courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Family Health History – An important part of the first prenatal appointment will be to gather a complete family health history. Gather as much information as you can so that you can accurately provide your doctor with a genetic picture of the issues that you or your baby might face. The people who generally comprise this overall picture include your parents, grandparents, and siblings, and your partner’s parents, grandparents, and siblings. Things to consider when gathering this information about health history include:

  • health history, including arrhythmias, heart attacks, and blood pressure issues
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • significant patterns in family health that go beyond immediate family – such as several aunts or cousins with a specific disease
  • mental illnesses
  • birth defects
  • genetic conditions
  • diabetes
  • epilepsy

At The First Prenatal Appointment

One of the first things you will likely be asked to do is complete a lot of paperwork, but if you have gathered the information ahead of time, this process will be much easier. You will also be asked to provide a urine sample for routine testing (most doctors test urine at every appointment), be weighed, measured for height, and have your blood pressure taken. All of this might happen before you even see your doctor. During your appointment, will commonly also:

  • Perform a pelvic and breast exam to look for any signs or symptoms that might interfere with a healthy pregnancy
  • Ask you about any early pregnancy symptoms you may be experiencing
  • Determine a due date, based heavily on the menstruation calendar you provide
  • Review your medical histories and discuss any concerns
  • Run tests for your complete blood profile, looking for things such as the Rh Factor, HIV, anemia, and other health indicators
  • Discuss with you a plan for healthy diet, exercise, medication use, and future scheduling of prenatal appointments

Sometimes doctors will use a Doppler instrument to listen for the baby’s heartbeat, but at 8-10 weeks this can be hard to do. If there are concerns an internal Doppler may be used. Some doctors will also perform or order a sonogram or ultrasound to verify the gestational age and health of your pregnancy. Be sure to ask questions, take any notes you feel are important, and keep scheduling those important prenatal exams.

[Feature Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]




Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”