Throughout your pregnancy you will have many checkups and doctor visits so that you and your baby are protected and safe. This is the best way in which a healthcare provider can detect early problems in a pregnancy and provide the necessary treatments. It is important that you visit and discuss any changes to your midwife or doctor throughout the 40 weeks of pregnancy.
Typically you should see your healthcare provider every four weeks during the first and second trimester, followed by more frequent visits in the last trimester. After 36 weeks you should expect to see your doctor every week until the baby is born.
Your 1st Prenatal Visit
Your first prenatal appointment is an opportunity for your healthcare provider to access both the health of yourself and your fetus. Normally this takes place in order to confirm the pregnancy and get a general due date.
You can expect that you will get useful information about your baby’s development and how to take care of yourself.
- Early Ultrasound: Usually happens between 8-12 weeks to confirm the pregnancy and get a more accurate due date.
- Nuchal Translucency: (11-14) weeks. It’s an ultrasound measurement of the thickness of the skin around the fetal neck. Just an early testing to see if there are chromosomal problems.
- MSS (Maternal Serum Screen): (15-20 weeks). It uses a blood test to measure hormones. It takes a computer analysis of the hormone levels and estimates the changes of neural-tube defects, Down’s syndrome and other abnormalities.
- IPS (Integrated Prenatal Scan): This is a 2-part screening that takes place at 2 different visits, approximately 3-4 weeks apart. It tests for abnormalities.
- Amniocentesis: This is not a mandatory testing, but many older mothers are choosing to have this done between weeks 15-20 of their pregnancy as a diagnostic test to confirm abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome. It involves taking amniotic fluid (the fluid around the baby) and a few cells shed by the baby through a needle.
Second Trimester Visits
You’ve made it to the 2nd trimester and as such you will need to continue to see your doctor or midwife once every four weeks to continue the care for your unborn child. If you have developed any conditions or complications during the pregnancy so far, your practitioner may need to see you more frequently.
Common things that are discussed:
- How do you feel?
- Have you felt the baby’s movements?
- Has there been any bleeding or vaginal discharge?
- Have there been any contractions?
- Weight gain
- Health and Nutrition
- Emotional well-being
- Urine check for urinary tract infection.
- Blood Pressure. If you have high blood pressure on top of high protein in your blood, it can be a sign of preeclampsia. If there is no protein in your urine but it is still high, there is a chance of gestational hypertension.
- Approximate length/weight of your fetus.
- Fundal Height check - which is basically the distance between your pubic bone and the top of your uterus. It helps to estimate the baby’s size and growth rate.
- Baby’s heartbeat. The most wonderful sound for a pregnant woman is the sound of her child’s beating heart.
The Second trimester visits also include a longer ultrasound that is usually scheduled at your local hospital. It lasts approximately 45 minutes and includes many measurements of the fetus to check its rate of growth and for abnormalities. It is also at this point where you can choose to find out the sex of your baby. A very exciting time for both the mother and the father!
Third Trimester Visits
Congratulations, you’ve now made it to the 3rd (and last) part of your pregnancy. As such it is important for your healthcare provider to keep a closer eye on you and your baby during the days lead up to delivery. From about 28 weeks on, you should be seeing your doctor every 2 weeks. After 36 weeks you will be increasing those visits to once a week.
- How are you feeling?
- How much is the baby moving?
- Any bleeding or discharge evident?
- Physical examination, including a Fundal Height Check
- Test you for Group B strep
- Focus (especially towards the last few months) on labour and delivery. What do you wish to happen? In case of a medical emergency, what actions will be taken?
- Concerns about labor and/or delivery.
- Creating a birthing plan and showing it to your doctor or midwife so that they know what you hope to happen during your L & D.
- Discuss post-partum options such as breastfeeding and circumcision.
Each visit that you have with your healthcare practitioner is important to the well being of both yourself and your unborn child. If you need help finding an Obstetrician just as your doctor to recommend one.