Beginning early in pregnancy, you will likely start to have monthly appointments with your doctor or midwife to assess your pregnancy progress, and help keep you and your baby healthy.
Most experts recommend scheduling your first appointment as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. At this first visit, your healthcare provider will take a full health history (including questions about your menstrual cycles, previous pregnancies, and overall health), and will calculate your due date. This first visit will typically take longer than later ones.
At each appointment you can expect some or all of the following:
- Height and weight
- Blood pressure measurement
- Urine screening
- Physical exam
- Discussion of lifestyle issues that might impact pregnancy
Around 12 weeks (sometimes sooner), your baby’s heartbeat might be heard with a handheld Doppler device – and you can eagerly anticipate hearing it at each appointment. If your provider doesn’t use a Doppler, the heartbeat can be heard with a fetoscope or stethoscope around 20 weeks.
Once you reach the halfway point of pregnancy (20 weeks), your doctor or midwife may begin to measure your belly at each visit. The measurement in centimeters from the fundus (the top of the uterus) to the top of your pubic bone should approximate the number of weeks pregnant you are. For example, if you are 25 weeks pregnant, your belly should measure between 23 and 27 centimeters.
In the last couple months of pregnancy, you may see your provider more often (every other week, then every week). Some providers will begin performing internal examinations in the final weeks to assess your cervix for changes that might signal labor is imminent.
In addition to the physical examinations, your provider may order screening tests at various points in pregnancy. Examples include the AFP screening (or TripleScreen), a glucose tolerance test, an ultrasound, and a beta strep culture. This is by no means a comprehensive list – your provider may suggest fewer or more based on your individual pregnancy. Further diagnostic testing may be performed if a screening test shows abnormal results.
Each visit to the healthcare provider is a time to ask questions and get the answers you need for a fully informed pregnancy and birth. Make a list beforehand so you don’t forget anything.
What if you disagree with your provider at some point, or if you find his or her philosophy of pregnancy and birth don’t match with yours? It’s never too late to switch providers. You want someone whose skill makes you feel confident, but whose personality makes you feel comfortable.
What made you choose your doctor or midwife?
Written by Michelle, writer, editor, childbirth educator, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.