What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Visit

What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Visit

Photo Credit: @___muse_

Few chapters are more of a whirlwind than finding out you're pregnant. Whether you've been trying for a long time or were surprised by a positive, it's helpful to take a deep breath and spend some time familiarizing yourself with what's to come. It's also important to find a doctor you feel comfortable with. After all, you'll be spending quite a bit of time together navigating a world of firsts. "This is a great time to meet new doctors and find someone you connect with," says Dr. Banafsheh Bayati, M.D., Perelel's Medical Co-Founder and a board-certified OB/GYN in Los Angeles, California.

Once you learn that you’re expecting, one of the first things on your early pregnancy to-do list (aside from making sure you’re taking quality prenatal vitamins) should be scheduling your first prenatal appointment. But what should you expect as you gear up for this first visit with your doctor? Let’s get into it.

Read on for an overview of what you can expect at your first prenatal visit.

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Your first pregnancy visit will happen around eight weeks after your last menstrual period. This initial visit will be one of the longest because there’s a lot to cover, including:

  • Confirmation of your pregnancy: Even if you get a positive result on a home pregnancy test, your healthcare provider will do urine and blood tests to confirm you’re pregnant. In some cases, you may be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat, depending on when you schedule your appointment—usually this is first detectable around 10 or 12 weeks.
  • Location of pregnancy: The first prenatal visit is intended to establish an intrauterine pregnancy, meaning your doctor is making sure that the conception has occurred in the right place in the womb.
  • A physical exam: You’ll get a general health exam, checks of your blood pressure, height, and weight, and a pelvic exam.
  • Your medical history: Learning about your personal and family medical history will help your healthcare provider understand how to care for you during your pregnancy. 
  • Other tests and screenings: Your healthcare provider may order some additional tests to check your overall health and screen for genetic conditions.
  • Your due date: If you know when you conceived and the date of your last menstrual period (LMP), mention those dates to your healthcare provider. The pelvic exam will also inform the approximate date your baby will be born.
  • History: During your first OB visit, your healthcare provider will want to know about your entire health history, your gynecological health, and lifestyle habits, including 
    • The first day of your last menstrual period (to determine your due date) and the overall regularity of your cycles.
    • Current or past gynecological conditions, including sexually transmitted infections, and any problems you’ve noticed since your last period.
    • Details about previous pregnancies.
    • Current or past diseases or other medical conditions, mental health difficulties, past surgeries, or hospitalizations. 
    • Medications, supplements, vitamins and herbal drugs you take, and any known drug allergies.
    • Lifestyle, including smoking, drinking, and recreational drug use.
    • Family medical history to help watch for genetic issues and birth defects.
  • Chat about your plans: Your healthcare provider will be interested to learn about you, help you settle into being pregnant, advise on your care team, and plan for the arrival of your baby.

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When should your first prenatal appointment be? 

Typically, your first prenatal appointment should occur around 8 to 10 weeks into your pregnancy. If you have any concerns or medical conditions, it's always a good idea to get in to see your doctor sooner than later. Early prenatal care is crucial for monitoring your health and ensuring the well-being of both you and your baby throughout the pregnancy, so don't be shy.

We asked Dr. Bayati a few questions about the most common symptoms she sees during the first prenatal exam.

"Depending on the timing and your genetics," Dr. Bayati says, "it's possible to have zero symptoms to quite significant symptoms, and anything in between. Often patients will not have any symptoms until about six and a half weeks of pregnancy, or four and a half weeks from conception. You may experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or breast tenderness. It's also important to know that up to 30 percent of women experience some form of vaginal bleeding in their first trimester.2 It is a common, but unsettling, symptom. It's important to let your doctor know and have them evaluate it, but rest assured that most of the time it resolves without harm. It's also common to feel growing pains, which patients describe as low-level, menstrual-like cramps that are sometimes worse on one side compared to the other. This is due to the rapidly growing womb and enlarged ovary that released the egg for ovulation. This ovary remains at a higher volume in size and is releasing progesterone to support the uterine lining and pregnancy. Eventually, the placenta takes over this function and the growing pains evolve into the second trimester round ligament pain, which is a sharp, brief pain on one or both sides of your belly. It's all your body adjusting and changing for your growing baby.

First prenatal visit questions to ask

This is your time to ask all of your questions and get clear about anything you're not sure about. It's a good idea to write these questions down. Some first prenatal visit questions you might be wondering about might include: 

  • What are common symptoms of pregnancy? What is uncommon?
  • Is there a nurse line to call if I have questions?
  • How much weight gain is healthy for me?
  • What foods and drinks should I avoid?
  • Can I exercise? Can I have sex?
  • What should I do in an emergency?
  • What are your thoughts about natural childbirth, Cesarean, and labor induction?
  • What medications do I need to avoid?

Just found out you're pregnant? Your complete guide of what to do next, according to an OB/GYN. Plus, get more tips for pregnancy from the experts who know best.

1 CDC. Folic Acid. Cdc.gov.
2 Bleeding during pregnancy | American pregnancy association. Americanpregnancy.org.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.