Reviewed by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN.
Disclaimer: The following is not intended to be medical advice and is for informational purposes only. Always consult your own health care provider about your pregnancy and health care.
Whether you have been trying to conceive for a while or were surprised to see a positive pregnancy test, the first trimester is a time of excitement and nerves.
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter after months of trying, I was elated to call my doctor. I expected them to have me come in immediately. Little did I know, the first prenatal visit was still far off.
“We’ll see you in a few weeks,” the nurse announced, after reminding me to take my prenatal vitamins.
Prenatal visits should start during the first trimester. However, at most practices you’ll have to wait until you’re eight weeks pregnant – or about four weeks after your missed period – to have your first prenatal visit. That wait can feel like forever, but in the meantime, you can prepare for what that first prenatal visit will look like. Here’s what to expect.
In this article:
What Happens at the First Prenatal Visit?
The first prenatal doctor’s appointment is focused on gathering a baseline look at your health and providing an overview of the next steps in your pregnancy. Since this is the provider’s introduction to you in many cases, they’ll want to get information on your health history and lifestyle.
In some practices, your first prenatal visit may actually be with a nurse who will perform your testing, gather your history, and go over some basic first trimester and pregnancy education with you. You can ask when you schedule your appointment if your first visit will be with a nurse or provider, and find out when you will be meeting your doctor or midwife as well.
“The first prenatal doctor’s appointment is focused on gathering a baseline look at your health and providing an overview of the next steps in your pregnancy. ”
In other practices, you might dive right into the testing portion of the pregnancy. Here are some of tests commonly performed at the first prenatal visit:
- Height and weight measurements. You doctor might use this as a starting point to identify any potential problems down the road.
- Blood pressure reading. This will happen at every prenatal appointment to monitor for preeclampsia.
- Blood tests. Your doctor will order blood tests to determine your blood type and whether you are rh positive or negative. Rh is a protein in the blood. Sometimes, women who are rh negative can have complications during pregnancy. Testing for this helps doctors provide treatment sooner.
- Urine tests. These can be used to detect infection or diseases like diabetes. Throughout pregnancy, your urine will be tested for proteins, since protein in the urine can be a sign of preeclampsia.
- A pelvic exam, PAP smear and STI screening. Undiagnosed STIs can cause complications during pregnancy, so this is routine.
Phew! That’s a lot of testing. There are also some additional parts of the first prenatal visit, such as:
- Your due date. This is usually calculated based on your last missed period, but if you’re unsure of your dates your provider might suggests an ultrasound to help get a precise due date.
- Genetic screening options. During the visit, your provider will discuss the different types of genetic screening that are available. Based on your family health history, risk factors and preferences, they’ll help you decide which tests are right for you.
- Health steps for you. Before you go, your provider will want to make sure you’ll be in tip-top health until your next visit, which will happen in about four weeks. Because of that, they might recommend that you catch up on vaccines (including the flu shot). They’ll also prescribe or recommend prenatal vitamins, although you should start those as soon as your start trying to conceive.
Will You Get an Ultrasound at Your First Prenatal Visit?
It’s understandable that you’re probably anxious to get a peek at that little one, but not every doctor’s office has a policy of offering ultrasounds at the first prenatal visit. However, if there are any specific medication conditions you have or a complication with your pregnancy, an ultrasound may be needed.
We recommend that you ask your doctor’s office what their policy on ultrasounds are and inform them ahead of time if there are any concerns you have about needing an ultrasound.
What to Do Before Your First Prenatal Appointment
Being prepared can help your first appointment go smoothly. Before your appointment, you should:
- Start taking prenatal vitamins. Prenatals are essential during the earliest weeks of pregnancy. If you have trouble affording the vitamins, reach out to your provider or local women’s health clinic. They may have resources to help.
- Make sure you have your insurance card and it is up to date. In some states you might qualify for Medicaid due to pregnancy even if you didn’t before. Be sure to check your eligibility.
- Decide whether you would prefer an OB/GYN or midwife. Also, you’ll want to ensure you choose a local provider who takes your insurance.
- Write down the date of your last period.
- Bring any medications you’re on, and jot down any important notes about your health history.
- Don’t stop taking any medications just because you’re pregnant. Not all medications are safe during pregnancy, but if you’re taking any prescribed medications regularly, it’s also important that you don’t stop them cold-turkey either. Keep taking any prescribed medications until you talk to your doctor.
- Create a list of questions that you want to ask your provider.
- If you need an ultrasound, bring a water bottle with you. Ask your provider if you should arrive with a full bladder, which can help early ultrasounds go more smoothly.
Tip: if you're taking any prescribed medications and find out you're pregnant, don't stop them cold-turkey without talking to your doctor first.
When to Call Your Doctor
It’s a good idea to get in contract with your care provider once you have a positive pregnancy test. That way, they can book your first prenatal appointment.
They’ll give you the basics of health care during early pregnancy, like stopping alcohol and starting prenatal vitamins. You’ll also have the chance to ask any initial questions, like whether it’s safe to continue working out during the first trimester (in most cases, it is!).
After that, you should feel free to call your doctor with any concerns—that’s what they’re there for, so don’t feel silly for getting your questions answers. And if you have any pain, spotting or bleeding, contact your care provider ASAP.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you get an ultrasound at your first prenatal visit?
In most cases, you do not get an ultrasound at your first prenatal visit. If you are unsure of your dates, your doctor might recommend an early ultrasound to help set your due date. People who underwent IVF often have early ultrasounds as well.
Is 12 weeks too late for first prenatal visit?
Usually, the first prenatal visit happens around week 8. Most providers want to see their pregnant patients during the first trimester, which ends after 12 weeks.
What can I expect at my first prenatal visit?
The first prenatal visit usually involves a thorough conversation with your provider, a health history, addressing your concerns about pregnancy, and prenatal genetic screening options. You’ll also have routine tests including a pap smear and blood and urine tests.
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