The first prenatal visit
The initial visit is usually the longest visit. Be sure to set aside plenty of time to ask questions and discuss concerns with Dr. Jenkins. Typically scheduled around the 8th week, the doctor may see you even earlier if there is a history of pregnancy complications, medical conditions like high blood pressure, or symptoms such as spotting or severe nausea.
Expect the first of many blood tests throughout your pregnancy. Blood count and type will be detected, along with diseases such as hepatitis B, and the Rh factor protein found in red blood cells. If the mother lacks the protein or the father has it, the pregnancy will probably require special care.
A complete physical exam includes a pelvic exam and Pap test to check for cervical cancer.
Dr. Jenkins generally recommends an ultrasound during the first trimester. A vital part of routine visits, a tool moved over the belly renders a picture of the developing fetus to identify potential fetal problems.
Specialized testing may be recommended should Down syndrome, chromosomal conditions, cystic fibrosis or other complications be a factor due to family history, age, or ethnicity. For parents who want to know baby's gender, a non-invasive prenatal test is performed with a simple blood draw as early as 10 weeks.
A healthy pregnancy schedule typically looks something like this:
- Monthly visits up to 28 weeks
- Bi-weekly visits to 36 weeks
- Weekly visits up to birth
While visits vary significantly from patient to patient as pregnancy goes along, during most visits blood pressure will be checked, and abdominal measurements will be taken to see how the fetus is developing. Ultrasound exams, blood tests, and fetal heart rate monitoring will accompany urine tests to detect issues such as UTIs, diabetes, and preeclampsia.
The fetus's position will be checked during later visits. At around 20 weeks, a maternal fetal medicine specialist will perform the ultrasound.
Those with a history of pregnancy complications or other risk factors may undergo chromosomal and neural tube defects screenings such as amniocentesis to diagnose Down syndrome or NTDs like spina bifida, or a carrier screening for cystic fibrosis.
Additional tests for glucose tolerance determine how your body reacts to a sugary drink after fasting for at least 8 hours. The CDC reports more than 9 percent of women develop gestational diabetes, usually around the 24th week. Older patients and those with excess weight and prediabetes are more susceptible. Follow doctor's recommendations to keep blood sugar levels in check.
A non-stress test may be ordered 28 weeks or later for higher-risk pregnancies. A belt around your belly will measure fetal heart rate at rest and while active to ensure baby is getting adequate oxygen. Around the same time, a biophysical profile including non-stress and ultrasound exams will monitor key indicators such as breathing, movement, muscle tone, and heart rate.
Visit early and visit often for your well-being and to get the newest addition to the family off to the best start possible.