As any mum knows, prenatal care is a crucial part of any healthy pregnancy, which is why you should be aware of the care available to you from the moment you find out you’re expecting a baby.
Your first visit
The accuracy of home pregnancy tests means that many doctors instigate prenatal care without the need for a formal test. Your first visit will be to your GP, who might want to discuss your medical history. However, the likelihood is that you will be immediately referred to specialist antenatal care professionals.
Your initial appointment could be with a nurse, midwife, health visitor or doctor – depending on your medical history, where you live and the type of healthcare you have chosen. You will be asked questions about your menstrual cycle, previous pregnancies, medications you are taking and lifestyle choices such as whether or not you smoke and drink.
This is your chance to raise any concerns you might have regarding your pregnancy. It is also when you will be given a provisional due date, which will allow your care providers to book the necessary antenatal appointments.
You will probably be given a very brief physical exam at this point, which will include checking your height and weight in order to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). You should also expect to have your blood pressure and heart rate measured. If you are predisposed to certain health conditions, you might be sent for blood tests and screenings. You may also be asked to undergo a cervical exam.
You can get some very useful information by attending this first appointment, including where to go for private pregnancy scans. There may also be further advice on preparing for childbirth and the first few weeks of parenthood. Antenatal classes by The Portland Hospital will provide you with advice, coping strategies and support to help you along the way.
The booking appointment
For most healthy mums-to-be, the next appointment is often referred to as the ‘booking appointment’ by healthcare professionals. This typically happens between weeks eight and 12 of a pregnancy, and it can take place at hospital, a local clinic, in a GP’s surgery or, in some rare cases, in your home. In most cases, midwives will take this appointment; however, if you are at heightened risk of complications, you might be referred to a consultant.
As well as being given more detailed advice at this second appointment, you will be offered an ultrasound scan in order to check on your baby’s progress in the womb. An ultrasound scan at this stage is used to ensure your baby is growing normally, and to pick up certain developmental defects and diseases. Along with your medical history and your test results to date, your consultant or midwife will be able to get a complete picture of your pregnancy, and make recommendations for lifestyle changes or further checks.
You might be given advice on:
Exercise – including pelvic floor exercises
Antenatal screening checks
The benefits available to expectant mothers
What to expect during labour (although this help often comes in the second trimester)
What might a doctor or midwife ask you during your first trimester?
It is vital that you are honest and open about your current state of health, your medical history and the medical history of your close relatives. This information will be used to ascertain how susceptible you are to certain complications and health conditions during your pregnancy. You might be asked questions related to:
Your current state of mind
Your ethnic origins
Known hereditary diseases you suffer from
Every time you attend a prenatal appointment, your notes will be updated. You might be asked to carry your own notes to and from appointments, and it’s important to your overall care that you never forget them. But as long as you look after yourself and take the advice of your healthcare providers at every stage of your first trimester, you will maximise your chances of enjoying a healthy, problem-free pregnancy.