A positive pregnancy test can be a very exciting event in a woman’s life, but when the joy or shock wears off it is important to start thinking about prenatal care. Receiving comprehensive medical care throughout pregnancy is essential for the good health of both the mother and the baby. While most women choose to receive prenatal care from an obstetrician (a medical doctor that specializes in caring for pregnant women and delivering babies), some woman choose to see their family doctor or a licensed midwife during pregnancy. The first prenatal appointment occurs during the first trimester, and a new mother-to-be can expect the following:

At an initial prenatal appointment a woman will be asked to provide her health history, information about her lifestyle, and a family health history. Information may be asked about the father of the child; based on the ethnicity of the parents, genetic screening may be offered to see if the fetus has any genetic abnormalities.

The first prenatal appointment typically includes a full physical examination—a woman’s height and weight will be recorded, and her blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored. The health care provider will do a physical to determine the overall state of a woman’s health. After an overall examination, most health care providers will do a pelvic exam to check the shape and feel of the cervix. Many doctors will also conduct a PAP smear at this time to ensure that a woman’s cervix is healthy.

A woman’s health care provider will determine the estimated due date of the baby at the first prenatal appointment. This is typically based on the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. If a woman does not remember the date, or if she has irregular or abnormal menstrual periods, her doctor will most likely do an ultrasound in order to examine the fetus and determine its gestational age. Whether or not an ultrasound is done during the first prenatal appointment varies by health care professional; some do them for every patients, while others only do an ultrasound if the due date can’t be determined by the date of the last menstrual period.

During the first prenatal appointment, the health care provider will order a variety of blood tests which will either be done in the office or at a nearby lab. These tests are used to determine a mother’s blood type, including her RH factor, and also measure her hemoglobin levels. Most health care providers also run a variety of tests to check to see if a woman has any infections that could be detrimental to her health or the health of the baby, such as HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Many newly pregnant women have a lot of questions about the changes in their bodies and what to expect as the pregnancy progresses, and the first prenatal appointment is the ideal time to ask these questions. A woman should feel completely comfortable speaking with the health care provider who is providing prenatal care during her pregnancy.

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Author's Bio: 

Brian Wu graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Currently, he holds a PhD and is an MD candidate (KSOM, USC) in integrative biology and disease. He is also an experienced writer and editor for many prestigious web pages. Brian values the ability of all ages to learn from the power of stories. His mission is to write about health conditions, educational topics and life situations in an entertaining way in order to help children understand their own life conditions and daily circumstances.