Image by Jug Jones
Guest post from Amy Nielson
Your first pregnancy can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but it can also be a little scary. Most women don’t know exactly what to do or what to expect when they get pregnant, and that’s only one reason that pre-natal care is so important. Most likely, you found out you were pregnant through a home pregnancy test.
Pregnancy tests measure human chorionic gonadotrophin, the hormone known as hGC, which is detectable in your blood 11 days after conception, but it could take up to 2 weeks to show in your urine. So a pregnancy test is much more likely to show a false negative than a false positive. Even though you might not really need an appointment till around week 12, it’s common to call the doctor as soon as you see that little plus sign. You probably have lots of questions!
1. Discussing Your Health History
You may have a lot of questions for the doctor, but he or she will also have a lot of questions for you. The first doctor’s appointment is largely about exploring your health history so you can identify any potential risks to your pregnancy. The University of California San Francisco states that only 6 to 8 percent of pregnancies are classified as high-risk, which includes mothers with a history of miscarriages or medical conditions like diabetes. Your doctor will want to go over past surgeries, exposure to diseases, and medication you take or have taken.
They will also ask about the medical history of your family, including whether your mother or sisters ever experienced difficulty with their pregnancies. If your pregnancy is classified as high-risk because of your age or health, it isn’t a cause for alarm right away. It simply means that the hospital can keep a closer eye on you and monitor your hGC levels and general health right up until your due date.
2. What Should You Ask?
You probably already have dozens of questions about the changes to your body and what’s normal, and it’s perfectly okay to ask them all. Chances are, your doctor has heard the same questions from many women during their first pregnancy. Your first doctor’s appointment is the right time to find out what kinds of foods and substances to avoid, what kind of healthy and nutritious habits to adopt, and how much weight gain is normal. You’ll also be curious about your due date, which can be calculated a number of ways.
If you know the date you conceived, this can be helpful in finding your due date, though doctors can usually calculate from the day of your last period. Women with an irregular cycle might need an ultrasound to get the most accurate date possible. But still only 5 percent of women deliver on that date exactly!
3. Tests and Exams
Of course, it wouldn’t be a doctor’s visit without a real check up of your physical condition. You can expect the normal things that happen whenever you visit the doctor, such as your weight and blood pressure being checked, and there will be a pelvic exam to check for STDs, estimate the size of your uterus, and check for any abnormalities. If you are more than 10 weeks pregnant, the doctor will listen for your baby’s heartbeat using doppler.
There are also a variety of lab tests your doctor will order to screen for diseases that can affect your unborn child and determine your blood type and risk for anemia. A number of genetic tests to see if you are a carrier for conditions you can pass on to your baby can be done as well. Tests for cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, and spinal defects don’t have to be done right away, but your doctor will explain whether they are smart options for the future.
The most important thing your first doctor’s visit will provide you is a general plan for how you will proceed through your pregnancy, Be sure and get the doctor to tell you the symptoms you can expect and the symptoms which could indicate a potential problem. But it’s most likely that you will simply plan for getting enough sleep, adequate exercise, and proper nutrition. You can stock up on prenatal vitamins or find out what you can take for morning sickness.
You’re at the beginning of a wonderful journey, but having someone there to answer your questions and help you along the way is essential.