You’re pregnant! Congratulations! You already know that you are going to visit your doctor with increasing regularity over the next several months. Early monitoring and on-going care during pregnancy is linked with more favorable birth outcomes. You’ll meet with your doctor to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing, prevent preterm delivery, anticipate difficulties and complications at delivery, and assist you (and your partner) in preparation for parenting. So how often should you meet with your doctor?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, experts suggest you see your doctor:
- About once each month for weeks 4 through 28
- Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36
- Weekly for weeks 36 to birth
If you are older than 35 or your pregnancy is high risk, you’ll probably see your doctor more often. While most women in their late 30s and early 40s have healthy babies, risks do go up for women in their late 30s and early 40s.
During the first prenatal visit, you can expect your doctor to:
- Ask about your family’s health history
- Ask about your health history including diseases, operations, or prior pregnancies
- Do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test.
- Check your blood pressure, height, and weight
- Calculate your due date
- Take your blood and urine for lab work
- Answer your questions
At the first visit, plan to spend at least an hour, and you should ask questions and discuss any issues related to your pregnancy. Find out all you can about how to stay healthy. If this is not your first pregnancy, and you had problems in a previous pregnancy, it’s important that you discuss with your doctor whether any special precautions should be taken. You will also have some routine tests. Some tests are suggested for all women, such as blood work to check for anemia, your blood type, HIV, and other factors. Other tests might be offered based on your age, personal or family health history, your ethnic background, or the results of routine tests you have had. Going forward, prenatal visits will most likely be shorter. Your doctor will check on your health and make sure the baby is growing as expected. Most prenatal visits will include measuring your weight, checking your blood pressure, and checking the baby’s heart rate. Around 36-38 weeks, your doctor will work with you to anticipate any problems. The doctor will check for the position of the baby to see if a C-section is necessary. With the increasing number of planned home births, you will also finalize the place for the delivery. This is also a good time to finalize the discussions on planned contraception after delivery.