Prenatal Care: Your First Visit

Your Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

Why is prenatal care important?

Regular appointments with your health care provider throughout your pregnancy are important to ensure the health of your and your baby.  In addition to medical care, prenatal care includes education on pregnancy and childbirth, plus counseling and support.

Frequent visits with your healthcare provider allow you to follow the progress of your baby’s development.  Visits also give you the opportunity to ask questions.  Most health care providers welcome your partner at each visit, as well as interested family members.

What happens on my first medical visit?

The first visit is designed to determine your general health and give your health care provider clues to the risk factors that might affect your pregnancy.  It will typically be longer than the future visits.  The purpose of the initial visit is to:

  1. Determine your due date
  2. Find out your health history
  3. Explore the medical history of family members
  4. Determine if you have any pregnancy risk factors based on your age, health, and/or personal and family history

You will be asked about previous pregnancies and surgeries, medical conditions, and exposure to any contagious diseases.  Also, notify your health care provider about any medicines you have taken or are currently taking.  We ask some very personal questions, but be assured that any information you give is strictly confidential.

Physical Exam

A thorough physical exam is also part of the first visit.  You are weighed, and your blood pressure, heart, lungs and breasts are checked.  The first visit also includes a pelvic exam.

Pelvic Exam

During the pelvic exam, a Pap smear is sometimes taken to screen for cervical cancer.  Cultures are taken to detect sexually transmitted diseases (such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia).  In addition a bimanual internal exam will be performed to determine the size of your uterus and pelvis. 

Your health care provider might listen for the baby’s heartbeat with a special instrument called a Doppler, which uses ultrasound waves.  A Doppler usually cannot detect a baby’s heartbeat before 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Lab Tests

Many lab tests are ordered at your first visit including:

  • Complete blood count - checks for blood problems like anemia
  • RPR - screens for syphilis
  • Rubella - tests for immunity to German measles
  • HbSAg - tests for Hepatitis (a liver infection)
  • Urinalysis - tests for kidney disease or bladder infections
  • HIV – test looks for antibodies in your blood
  • Cystic Fibrosis – screens for the presence of the CF gene
  • Type and Screen – determines your blood type and Rh factor

If your blood type is negative and your partner’s is positive, you will need to get an injection called Rhogam during your pregnancy.

How is my due date determined?

Normally, your due date is 280 days (40 weeks or about 10 months) from the first day of your last period.  However, if your periods are not regular or not 28 days in cycle, your due date might be different.  Your health care provider will order an ultrasound to help determine your due date.

How often should I see my health care provider during pregnancy?

  • Every four weeks until 28 weeks
  • Every two weeks from 28 until 36 weeks
  • Weekly from 36 weeks until delivery