What to Know About Prenatal Appointments
Finding out you are expecting is the best feeling in the world. But once the bliss starts fading, you are swept away in a whirlwind of cravings, discomfort and prenatal checkups!
For first-time mommas, the thought of prenatal appointments can be daunting. You just don’t know what to do! Don’t worry. We have rounded up the basics of prenatal care, including what to expect and the ultimate dos and don’ts.
Your initial checkup is crucial
Your first trip to the doctor is usually the longest yet most comprehensive. Since it is your first consultation, expect to undergo a lot of tests. After all, your practitioner needs to gather as much information as possible to complete your initial assessment.
Here is what actually happens during your first checkup:
- When should you go for your first prenatal visit?
A first prenatal checkup usually happens between week 6 to 8 of the pregnancy. But it is advisable to go see a doctor as soon as you find out you are pregnant. The sooner prenatal care can start, the better.
- What should you prepare for?
Yes, there is homework to do before stepping into your doctor’s clinic. Make a mental or physical note of key health facts. These include previous and current illnesses, allergies, age when you had your first period and current medications, among others.
- What should you expect?
During the first prenatal checkup, you will get a general health exam. Your doctor will obtain baseline measurements of your height and weight, blood pressure, uterus size and shape, and others.
You will undergo a series of routine tests to check your health status. Some tests will also confirm the pregnancy and determine how far along you are. These include the following:
- Urine tests for glucose, protein and bacteria
- Blood tests for blood type, Rh status and antibodies
- Genetic screening tests
- STD tests for HIV, hepatitis B and others
- Pap smear
- Ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy
The best thing about the first checkup? You will get an estimated countdown until you get to see your baby!
Don’t fret — it is just a routine test
As your pregnancy progresses, expect to undergo other screening tests along the way. But before you start panicking thinking something is wrong, relax. These are just routine tests that most expectant moms go through.
Prenatal screening tests check the baby’s overall development. They also determine if your little one is at risk of genetic conditions like Down syndrome or other health conditions like heart defects and more.
The following may be included in these routine screening tests:
- Glucose screening — This test checks for gestational diabetes, or diabetes during pregnancy. Although temporary, gestational diabetes puts your pregnancy at risk of complications.
- Group B strep screening — This test checks for the presence of the group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria. GBS can cause serious infections to a newborn baby due to its weak immune system. If you test positive for GBS, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to reduce the baby’s risk of infection.
Special screenings ensure your baby’s safety
Testing positive for a screening test does not mean something is wrong. Once you test positive for a certain screening test, you will likely undergo diagnostic tests to confirm the condition.
Here are some special tests you may or may not undergo during prenatal checks:
- Amniocentesis — An amniocentesis detects genetic abnormalities, such as spina bifida or Down syndrome. The test involves removing a small amount of amniotic fluid from the uterus for testing.
- Chorionic villus sampling — Chorionic villus sampling is another test that detects Down syndrome and other birth defects. It is an invasive test that involves taking out a small piece of placental tissue.
- Nonstress test — You may undergo a nonstress test if you have tested positive for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or other pregnancy complications. You may also need one if your baby is inactive or small for his gestational age.
During a nonstress test, a practitioner will place two stretchy belts around your belly. One will measure contractions. The other belt, which holds an ultrasound transducer (used with advanced ultrasound transducer cable), will measure the fetal heart rate.
A reactive, or normal, result occurs if the baby moves a lot and maintains a normal heart rate. Meanwhile, a nonreactive result is when the baby’s heart rate remains low despite movement.
Remember, prenatal tests and checkups are there to ensure you and your baby’s safety. Don’t get intimidated by them. Instead, use them as an opportunity to educate yourself and to take control over you and your little one’s health.