During pregnancy (even an easy routine one) you can expect many doctor's visits and and tests.
A typical schedule of prenatal doctor appointments
- About once every month during the first six to seven months of pregnancy (basically the first two trimesters)
- About every two weeks during the seventh to eighth month of pregnancy
- About weekly in the 9th or last month of pregnancy
This does not include the ultrasound scans and the prenatal tests. These are addressed separately.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy then you can expect to see the doctor more often. You could be high-risk during pregnancy if you are over 35 years old, are going to have twins, have certain health conditions (like diabetes or high blood pressure) or have other pregnancy complications.
Your initial prenatal appointments
Once you confirm you are pregnant with a home pregnancy kit, go visit your doctor as soon as possible.
These early one or two visits will probably be among the longest, and it will help if you arrive prepared with information. The information you gather during these visits and the relationship you build with your doctor will really help you over the coming months.
Your doctor will check your medical status and history.
This will include:
- Blood pressure, height, and weight
- The date of your last menstrual period (an accurate LMP is helpful when determining gestational age and due date)
- Your lifestyle (diet, whether you are vegetarian, exercise, smoking, alcohol)
- Birth control methods
- History of abortions and/or miscarriages
- Medications you are taking
- Medication allergies
- Your family’s medical history (genetic history, medical)
Checklist for discussion
- Miscarriage precautions
- Exercise ( what kind of exercise is safe at this stage)
- Diet, appropriate weight gain
- Nutritional supplements
- Typically folic acid supplements are given during the first trimester
- The doctor might advise other vitamins etc. for some women
- The timeline of the different tests you will need to take.
- Make sure you choose a reputed laboratory that has the latest diagnostic tools and experienced staff even for routine tests.
- If you are above the age of 35, then ask the doctor about tests like CVS, AFP and Amniocentesis
- How many cups of coffee or tea are okay?
- Fever/headache/cold medication (what's safe?)
- Advice concerning dental care (are x-rays safe), cats, raw meat, fish
- Beauty treatments (safety of hair dyes, laser hair removal, perms, hair straightening treatments)
- Travel limitations (if any)
- Medical emergencies (what are they, who to call)
- How safe is having sex for you?
- Child birth classes (These days many hospitals offer child birth classes)
- Where will you have the baby (hospital, nursing home, birthing centre)
- Next appointment (Typically, in another 4 weeks)
If your first visit was right after you have confirmed pregnancy, your doctor will ask you to come back a month later (around 8 - 10 weeks) to run a series of tests.
These tests include:
- Physical exam which will include a breast exam and a cervical exam / pap smear (to rule out any Sexually transmitted diseases or Urinary Tract Infections).
- Typically an ultrasound scan to confirm your due date or if you are experiencing any bleeding or cramping. This is not compulsory but these tests are reassuring and these days are very popular
- Blood Test to determine
- Haemoglobin levels in your blood. These will determine the iron in your blood and point if you are anemic.
- Rh Factor and blood type
- Shows if you are immune to Rubella or German Measles
- HIV or AIDS (whether positive or negative)
- Hepatitis B
- Bacteria (to point infections)
- Urine test to check
- Sugar levels for diagnosing gestational diabetes. Indian mothers have a high probability of getting gestational diabetes.
- Protein in the urine. High protein levels might indicate high blood pressure or preeclampsia which is a high-blood pressure related pregnancy complication
- Urine test is a routine pregnancy test and will repeated at all the appointments (especially in the second and the third trimesters)
Stay on top of the medical "stuff"
Pregnancy is a time when your body is going through so many discomforts and on top of this, you have to track the various doctor’s appointments and tests--you are anxious to ensure that you do not miss anything important.
Here are some tips that can help you stay on top:
- In your very first doctor's visit, get a list of appointments (these might change based your pregnancy specifics) and put these on your and your spouse’s calendar. This way you are not struggling to get appointments later and can plan ahead. This is especially important if you are working.
- Try and take the first appointment of the day (or the earliest) because chances are that the appointments towards the latter part of the day are more likely to get delayed.
- Get the doctors phone numbers added to your and your spouse’s mobile phones as well as your landline phone.
- Get a list of tests to be taken and schedule these beforehand with the lab/doctors office. It is important that you take these tests at the right time so that you and your doctor can act in a timely manner.
- Read up the basics of pregnancy. Check out our pregnancy article collection.
- But do not worry too much. It’s important that you use medical information wisely and keep things in perspective. When in doubt, it’s best to clarify any confusing facts or anxieties with your doctor.
What to expect at every routine prenatal visit
Here is what you can expect from most of your routine doctors visits:
- Your doctor will track your progress and address any concerns you might have.
- Your doctor will check your urine for protein and will measure your blood pressure. Protein in the urine and high blood pressure are symptoms of a pregnancy-related condition called preeclampsia. Left untreated, it can cause problems like poor growth in your baby and seizures in the mother. That is why doctors keep a close watch on the blood pressure.
- Your doctor may also have your urine checked for sugar, especially because Indian mothers are more susceptible to gestational diabetes
- At every visit, the doctor will listen to your baby's heartbeat with a hand-held device called a doppler. (A doppler sends out low-frequency ultrasound waves which go through your skin and then when the waves "bounce back", they get translated into sounds. They catch not just the sound of baby's heart beat but also other sounds like blood flowing through your placenta among other sounds in your abdomen).
- In the latter half of your pregnancy (20th week onwards), the doctor will also start measuring your abdomen to track how the uterus (and the baby inside it) are growing.
- In the last trimester, the doctor will also physically examine your abdomen to check the position of the baby (by feeling with hands)