Expecting a baby? Congratulations! Whether this is your first child or a new sibling, proper prenatal care is vital to a healthy pregnancy, and a healthy baby. As soon as you know you are pregnant, schedule an appointment with your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN).
Your first prenatal appointment: What to expect
During your first prenatal visit, you and your OB/GYN will:
- Confirm your pregnancy and determine your approximate due date
- Discuss your health history, including the medical background of family members
- Check your general physical health, including a pelvic exam, and identify any potential risk factors (such as age, genetic conditions, etc.)
- Discuss what to expect during your pregnancy, including recommendations for nutrition, prenatal vitamins, exercise, sexual activity, morning sickness and other concerns
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Even if you feel a question may be silly, ask away — your OB/GYN has likely heard it all before. Getting the answers you seek reduces anxiety and helps you enjoy your pregnancy. And that’s important to your health and the health of your baby.
Prenatal laboratory tests
Your physician may also schedule several blood tests to screen for diseases and other concerns that should be addressed early in your pregnancy. The most common tests include the following:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC) screens for blood problems such as anemia (usually due to low levels of iron).
- RPR screens for syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that can be passed on to your baby. If left untreated, syphilis can cause nerve damage, brain damage, or bone problems and may even put the baby’s life at risk.
- Rubella screens for immunity against German measles, and Varicella screens for immunity against chickenpox.
- HBsAg screens for hepatitis B, a liver infection that mothers can pass on to their babies without realizing they have it.
- Type and screen blood test determines your blood type and Rh factor (a protein on the surface of blood cells that causes an immune system response). You are either Rh negative (blood has no Rh factor) or Rh positive (blood has Rh factor). Either one is fine, but if the mother’s blood is Rh negative and the father’s blood is Rh positive, the baby’s blood type may not match the mother’s, which can cause problems during pregnancy or delivery. This condition is known as “Rh incompatibility” and affects about 15 percent of pregnancies. If you do have Rh incompatibility, your OB/GYN will give you one or more injections of Rhogam, an immune globulin, to ensure that your antibodies don’t have an adverse reaction to the pregnancy.
- Genetic tests: Depending on your ethnic background and medical history, you may also be tested for sickle-cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis and other genetic diseases that can be passed onto the baby.
Countdown to baby
Your OB/GYN will let you know when you need to come back for subsequent prenatal check-ups. Your first prenatal visit will most likely be longer and more comprehensive than later visits.
When you return, your OB/GYN will perform an ultrasound exam to listen for the baby’s heartbeat, and do a visual examination of the developing fetus via pictures on a screen. Your physician will also discuss your health and let you know if there is anything specific you should be doing.