5 Important Questions to Ask at Your First Prenatal Visit
Go to your doctor prepared with these need-to-know topics.
Whether it is your first pregnancy or you've been pregnant before, prenatal care is important for the health of both you and your baby. It's recommended to schedule an appointment with a midwife or obstetrician as soon as you suspect you're pregnant. The first prenatal visit will ideally occur around the 8th week of pregnancy, which gives you plenty of time to develop a long list of questions about what you are feeling and what to expect over the course of the following months.
From a health care provider's point of view, the initial appointment is a chance to review your detailed health history, outline a prenatal plan, and identify your due date. The first encounter is also an opportunity for you to get to know how they will work with you, as well as to evaluate if you are comfortable with their birth practices and experiences. Bring a list of your questions to help make sure you use the time effectively.
1. How does prenatal care work?
There are a lot of choices to be made during prenatal care, so take full advantage of all recommended visits. More questions will arise during pregnancy, especially as you get closer to delivery and your birth attendant is full of advice to guide you. Get an outline of the proposed schedule, as well as the prenatal tests available at each point of the pregnancy. These tests examine both the mother and the baby's health. Having an idea of what is coming next gives you time to fully research the pros and cons of each procedure and discuss how you feel about them with your partner. Most procedures are not mandatory, but depending on the health history of both you and your partner, some may be more important to consider.
2. What is your philosophy about birth?
At this point, you may not have considered what choices you want to make regarding labor and delivery. It is still early in the game to know how you'll feel about pain medications, birth positions, interventions like pitocin, and even breastfeeding. However, it is a good idea to begin the dialogue early with your provider to understand what options they will support and what their birth rates have been like for various situations, like episiotomies, inductions past due date, and Cesarean births.
Keep in mind, depending on how your care provider's schedule, they might not even be attending your birth if another doctor is on-call or another patient is in labor at the same time. Look for a practice that lets you rotate providers through your prenatal care to get to know how each one feels about labor and delivery in advance of it actually happening.
3. What should I do if I experience cramping or bleeding, especially in the first trimester?
What does your provider consider an emergency? I had a friend whose obstetrician said, "There's nothing I can do to help you in the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy." While this may be true regarding viable pregnancies from a medical intervention perspective, it can be incredibly scary to have any bleeding and cramping in early pregnancy. Knowing your provider will be available to emotionally support and guide you through any pregnancy challenges, as well as clinically evaluate your situation, can be especially reassuring.
4. What lifestyle changes should I be making now?
When women find out they are pregnant, there is added incentive and motivation to start making healthier choices. General guidelines suggest quitting smoking, eliminating alcoholic beverages, and avoiding opportunities for food poisoning (such as from raw fish and deli meats) once you discover you are pregnant. Some providers say you can keep doing whatever you have been doing for exercise (so get started on a program before you conceive), but if you haven't been exercising at all they can guide you on types of fitness that may be safe and helpful in preparation for labor, like prenatal yoga. Be sure to discuss all medications and supplements that you are taking, since some are not safe to take during pregnancy or the amounts may need to be modified.
5. How do I deal with fatigue, morning sickness, and other pregnancy symptoms?
One advantage of prenatal care is gaining an education on all facets of pregnancy and there's a wide range of what is "normal" with regard to being pregnant . Even if you have been pregnant before, each pregnancy comes with its own different symptoms and experiences. Use your provider as a resource for how to best cope with various pregnancy symptoms. Making dietary changes like increasing protein intake and eating more regularly can help with some forms of nausea. Trying to nap and taking the time to slow down can help with feeling fatigued. It's a full-time job and hard work to develop a growing baby. Use your midwife or doctor for all the information they can offer you to help keep you feeling healthy in preparation for a healthy arrival.