What to Expect at Your Pregnancy Doctor Visits
When you’re pregnant, you’ll need to see your healthcare provider often—at least 17 times between your first visit and your baby’s due date. If your pregnancy is high risk, you may need to see your doctor or nurse-midwife more often. But it’s worth each trip. The medical checkup, screening tests, and counseling you’ll receive at your prenatal care visits can help keep you and your baby healthy.
Be sure to go to all your prenatal appointments, even if you’re feeling fine. Here’s what to expect at these consistent checkups.
Frequency of visits: Once a month
Your first appointment will be the longest of your first trimester visits. At this initial visit, your healthcare provider will confirm your pregnancy and perform a full physical and pelvic exam. He or she will also do a Pap test to check for cervical cancer and vaginal infections.
The staff will check your weight and blood pressure. You’ll give a blood sample to check for anemia (when you have too few oxygen-carrying red blood cells) and to determine your blood type and Rh factor status (a protein that can be present on red blood cells). With your permission, your provider will check your blood for infections, such as HIV.
You’ll need to provide a urine sample to check for infection. Your healthcare provider may also do an early ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show a picture of your unborn baby. The test will confirm your pregnancy and help your doctor calculate your due date.
Your healthcare provider will also talk with you about your lifestyle and your health habits. He or she will recommend or prescribe a prenatal vitamin, which contains 600 micrograms of folic acid to help prevent a birth defect called spina bifida.
At subsequent first trimester visits, you can expect routine blood pressure and weight checks. Your healthcare provider will check your baby’s heart rate, measure your abdomen to check your baby’s growth, and may recommend additional routine tests as your pregnancy progresses.
Frequency of visits: Once a month
At these visits, your healthcare provider will address your questions and concerns. He or she will check your weight, take your blood pressure, measure your belly to see how your baby is growing, and check your hands, feet and face for swelling. Your provider will also listen to your baby’s heartbeat and feel your belly to find your baby’s position.Your healthcare provider may do additional blood tests and an ultrasound—typically at 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy—to check your baby’s health. Between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, you’ll undergo a glucose screening—a test that detects gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.
Frequency of visits: Twice a month until you reach 36 weeks, then weekly until you give birth
At these late-stage visits, your doctor will continue to monitor your blood pressure and weight, check your baby’s heart rate, and measure your abdomen to check your baby’s growth.
During your 35th to 37th week of pregnancy, your healthcare provider will do a group B strep (GBS) test. This quick, painless swab test checks fluid from your cervix and rectum for bacteria that could pass to your baby during birth. GBS bacteria can cause pneumonia or other serious infections in newborns. If you test positive for GBS, you’ll be given intravenous (IV) antibiotics during labor to help protect your baby. With IV antibiotics, your chances of delivering a baby with group B strep disease are extremely low—only 1 in 4,000.
As you get closer to your due date, your healthcare provider will also check your cervix to see if it’s becoming thinner and softer, a sign that your baby’s birth could be any day.