The beginning of a new pregnancy is an exciting, yet sometimes nerve-racking time.
Knowing how to best equip yourself for your first prenatal visit can help ease your mind and prepare you to welcome your baby.
Maggie E. Power, CNM, MSN, a Penn Medicine nurse midwife, shares how to get ready even before becoming pregnant and what to expect during your first prenatal appointment and beyond.
Prepping for Pregnancy
If you're planning to become pregnant, Power, who practices at Penn Ob/Gyn Associates, suggests scheduling a pre-conception visit to get to know your care team and address your needs ahead of time.
“This is a good time to think about what needs or desires you may have during pregnancy care and what practice is most suitable for your family,” she said. “At a pre-conception visit, we can review all of your routine health maintenance screenings to ensure you are in optimal health prior to pregnancy.”
At a pre-conception appointment, you also can assess any medical concerns and go over medications with your care team to ensure they are appropriate to continue taking as you try to become pregnant.
Genetic screening options also are available before pregnancy for both you and your partner.
“Looking into options prior to conception allows time to review and consider these options,” Power said. “Also, I recommend taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid prior to conception.”
Once you have a positive home urine pregnancy test, Power said you should schedule a prenatal appointment at about eight weeks since your last menstrual period.
“At this time, the pregnancy is typically well established and can be seen by ultrasound,” she said. “It is also a good time to address many different physical and educational needs during your pregnancy.”
Be prepared to get a lot of information during that first visit. It is meant to orient you and your family with your pregnancy and your care team.
“Typically, we start with an intake to get to know you and review your past medical, surgical and obstetrical history,” Power said.
During your first appointment you’ll also receive a physical examination and ultrasound, if needed. After the exam is completed and reviewed, patients also meet with an obstetrics nurse to review follow-up care and prenatal education.
What To Bring
To make the appointment most beneficial, you should have the following on hand, as they may impact your pregnancy care:
- Prior medical records
- Results of previous lab work
- Results of your most recent pap smear
- Prior delivery records (if applicable)
“Also, it is helpful to know some information about your body, including the first day of your last menstrual period to help establish an anticipated due date in your pregnancy,” Power said. “Period tracking applications on your smart phone can be very helpful.”
“We will also inquire about your personal or family history of genetic disorders. If you have previously performed genetic screenings in prior pregnancies, it is also helpful to have that information available.”
Your care team will review genetic screening and diagnostic options available, and make referrals to schedule an additional appointment with a genetic counselor, if needed, during your first visit.
The appointment is also a time for expecting parents to ask any questions and share any concerns they might have about the pregnancy.
“During our discussion, we review our practice model and answer any questions or concerns you may have,” Power said. “We are a collaborative practice that includes midwives, physicians and nurse practitioners, and we want to give you answers to any questions you might have during this exciting time.”
After Your First Visit
If you forget to ask a question or voice a concern during that initial appointment, don’t worry. Power said your care team will be there to review anything at any time during your pregnancy.
“We are happy to review during any prenatal visits,” she said. “We also have a MyPennMedicine portal system for non-emergent questions that are triaged by our terrific nursing and provider staff. If you have any more urgent matters, we encourage to call the office to speak with our nursing team.”
After your first visit, Power recommends collecting your prenatal labs and a scheduling follow-up appointments.
“We typically see our patients for return office visits every four weeks until the 28th week of pregnancy, every 2 weeks from 28 weeks to 36 weeks, and then weekly until your baby arrives,” she said. “We look forward to caring for you and your family during your pregnancy.”