What mums-to-be should expect at their first prenatal visit
What are the tests your gynaecologist will conduct at your first prenatal visit, and will you really get to see your baby's heart beat for the first time? The answers to these questions, and more about your first prenatal visit are in this article...
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably just found out you’re pregnant – congratulations! One of the most important things you should be doing right now is scheduling your first prenatal visit to a gynaecologist.
Prenatal care is important to make sure that you and your baby are doing well at every stage. But, it’s not just medical care you’ll get during these visits. Your gynaecologist will also be able to educate you (and your partner) on the birthing process, and provide other valuable information, guidance, as well as support.
With every pregnancy, your first prenatal visit will always be a brand new experience. So, to guide you on what you should expect at this consultation, we put together some useful information about your first prenatal visit.
When should you first go?
Singapore-based obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Anne Tan says that if you have a regular menstrual cycle and you have missed your next expected period, you should use an at-home pregnancy test to check if you are indeed pregnant.
Usually, your first prenatal visit will be within your second month of pregnancy - between week six and week eight. However, you should call in to your doctors' as soon as you see a positive result from your pregnancy test. Your visit will be dependant on you, some doctors may be able to fit you in right away and depending on the practice, they may also provide pre-OB visits to confirm your pregnancy.
But, if and when you do get a positive result, make sure you take the necessary precautions to take care of your pregnancy before your first visit.
According to WebMD, the purpose of your first prenatal visit is to:
- Determine your due date
- Learn about your health history
- Explore the medical history of family members
- Determine if you have any pregnancy risk factors based on your age, health, and/or personal and family history.
What you should expect at your first prenatal visit
1. Blood tests
According to Dr Dana Elliot Srither, a Singapore-based family physician, one of the first blood tests conducted during your prenatal checkup involves checking the amount of the pregnancy hormones, Human Choroid Gonadotrophin, within your blood.
While this will confirm how far along you are in your pregnancy, your doctor will also make sure the amount is doubling every two to three days. This indicates that your pregnancy is going along normally.
Your gynaecologist will also carry out the following tests during your prenatal visit on your blood, says Dr Srither:
- Full blood cell count (FBC).
- Blood typing and screening for Rh antibodies.
- Presence of syphilis, hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Previous exposure to some viral diseases, especially German measles (rubella).
- Others such as to check for thyroid disease, depending on your past medical history.
2. Pelvic exam
Dr Srither explains that a pelvic exam is done at your first prenatal appointment to see how you are progressing and that all is normal.
Your doctor may also conduct an internal exam (with two fingers inside your vagina and one hand on your stomach) to check for any abnormalities of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. During this examination, the doctor will also determine the size of your uterus and pelvis.
3. Vaginal ultrasound
The vaginal ultrasound, according to Dr Tan, should detect an intrauterine gestational sac with a yolk sac, and your baby (know at this stage, as the "fetal pole") should be seen measuring just under 5 mm. By seven weeks gestation, the fetal pole would be around 10 mm and your baby's heartbeat will be audible!
Dr Tan explains that your gynaecologist will also probably have a careful look around the gestational sac to check that all is good, and that there are no fibroids, ovarian cysts or other growths.
Other than the various tests mentioned above, your gynaecologist will also check your blood pressure and temperature, and do a urine protein test.
So, what questions should you be asking your gynaecologist at your first prenatal visit?
Here is a checklist of what you should be asking during your prenatal check up.
Ask plenty of questions!
If this is your first pregnancy, don't hold back on asking your gynaecologist all those questions you're probably bursting to ask.
Dr Gordon Lim, also a Singapore-based gynaecologist, suggests asking questions around the following topics:
1. Suitable food: Find out about the kind of food you should be eating more of during your pregnancy as well as those you should be avoiding, e.g., processed food, fizzy drinks. Your gynaecologist will also advise you on how much weight you should be gaining through your pregnancy. Don't forget to talk to your doctor about a suitable prenatal vitamin.
2. Work and travel: Talk to your doctor about the type of work you do. If it involves long hours or frequent travel, find out if this will have an impact on your pregnancy and if and when you should be scaling back.
3. Mode of delivery: Ask your doctor any questions you might have about natural birth and/or Caesarian delivery. While the mode of delivery is your decision, your gynaecologist can talk to you about the pros and cons of each method, which should help you decide.
4. Emotions and symptoms: If you have been getting unusual pregnancy-related cravings and are wondering whether they are normal, do ask your doctor about them. Keep in mind that pregnancy is not just a physical experience—it is equally an emotional experience. So if you have been experiencing mood swings or other emotions, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about them.
5. Sex: Women often experience an increase in libido during pregnancy, but their partners may be hesitant to engage sexually for various reasons. Talk to your gynaecologist about sex during pregnancy—when it's okay and if (and when) it's not—it's best that your partner is around for this, too!
6. Gynaecologist's availability: Find out if your doctor will actually be available on your expected due date (he or she might be travelling, for example). If not, ask who the replacement gynaecologist will be and if you can meet him or her. Also ask your gynaecologist if you can contact him/her at any time and the best way of doing this.
Mums-to-be, your gynaecologist is going to be your best friend for the next nine months. So make the most of your first prenatal visit and forge an amazing relationship that will see you through your pregnancy journey.