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Healthy Pregnancy Newsletter
Healthy Pregnancy Newsletter - Checking It Out

Remember, you should call your health care provider as soon as you suspect you may be pregnant. You can schedule your first prenatal visit during the first 12 to 13 weeks after your last menstrual period. This will be the first of many visits throughout your pregnancy, with each one designed to keep a watch on your health and the growth and development of your unborn baby. Over the course of your three trimesters, each approximately three months in length, you can use these check-ups as opportunities to ask questions and learn more about your pregnancy.

At your first prenatal visit, a complete medical history is taken, a physical examination is conducted, and certain tests and procedures are performed. Your visit may include the following:

  • Medical history about previous and current medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), anemia, and/or allergies, your current medications, and previous surgeries
  • Maternal and paternal family medical history, including illnesses such as diabetes or mental retardation, and genetic disorders such as sickle-cell disease or Tay-Sachs disease
  • Gynecological and obstetrical history, including past pregnancies (stillbirths, miscarriage, deliveries, or terminations) and menstrual history (length and duration of menstrual periods)
  • Education, including a discussion about the importance of proper nutrition, regular exercise, and the avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, and any concerns about domestic violence
  • Pelvic examination to note the size and position of your uterus, to determine the gestational age of the unborn baby, to check the pelvic bone size and structure, and to perform a Pap test (also called Pap smear) to detect the presence of abnormal cells. Screening tests for sexually transmitted diseases may also be performed.

You may also have several laboratory tests performed such as urine tests to screen for bacteria, sugar, and protein; blood tests to determine blood type, Rh factor, and rubella immunity. You may also be offered first trimester prenatal screening tests to help determine the risk of your fetus having certain birth defects. These tests include fetal ultrasound and maternal blood testing and are usually performed between 11 and 14 weeks.

The first prenatal visit is a good time to ask any questions. Take advantage of this opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have about pregnancy, your care, or your overall health. You might find it helpful to write down your questions before your appointment.

Some questions that you might want to ask include:

  • What is my due date?
  • Are my symptoms normal?
  • What are your specific recommendations about weight gain, exercise, and nutrition?
  • What tests do you recommend during pregnancy?
  • How often will I be seen for prenatal check-ups?
  • Can you recommend any books or classes?
Ultrasound: Your first baby pictures

At every visit, the health care provider will listen for the heartbeat of your unborn baby, usually using a hand held Doppler device. Your health care provider may recommend an ultrasound scan, which is a diagnostic technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of your unborn baby. An ultrasound scan provides valuable information, gives you a unique opportunity to see your baby before birth, and can help plan for your delivery. This scan may be performed early in the first trimester:

  • To establish the dates of a pregnancy
  • To determine the number of fetuses and identify placental structures
  • To diagnose an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage
  • To examine the uterus and other pelvic anatomy
  • In some cases to detect fetal abnormalities

An ultrasound scan may be performed later in your pregnancy to determine your unborn baby's health, size, and position before delivery.

 

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