Whether you're expecting your first child or you’ve been through the pregnancy journey before, you have likely heard how important prenatal care is. But what exactly is a prenatal visit, and how often do you need to schedule them?
At Advanced Women's Care of Pittsburgh, we specialize in high-quality prenatal care for all stages of your pregnancy. Our experienced board-certified OB/GYNs provide comprehensive care for expectant mothers in a warm and friendly atmosphere. From your first prenatal appointment to the delivery of your new bundle of joy, our team will be here to help you navigate the entire process.
Knowing what to expect from each stage of prenatal care can help you better prepare for potential health issues and ensure the best outcome for your pregnancy. Here is a brief overview of a typical pregnancy appointment schedule and prenatal care checklist:
Understanding Prenatal Care
Prenatal care, sometimes known as antenatal care, is the healthcare you receive during your pregnancy. This regular check-up routine is aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of you and your baby.
The importance of prenatal care cannot be overstated. It's like the guiding star for your pregnancy journey, illuminating the path to a healthy and safe delivery. Here's why:
- Early Detection of Complications: Regular prenatal visits allow your healthcare providers to spot potential risk factors, health problems, and pregnancy complications early in their course and initiate prompt management. These could include high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or signs of preeclampsia.
- Fetal Health Monitoring: In addition to monitoring the health of the mom-to-be, prenatal visits are also a time to check on your baby's growth and health. Regular ultrasounds and prenatal tests can track your baby's development and detect any abnormalities early.
- Education and Guidance: Pregnancy can feel like a whirlwind of changes. Prenatal appointments are an opportunity to ask questions and get professional advice about things like nutrition, exercise, and what to expect during labor and delivery.
- Emotional Support: Even an easy, healthy pregnancy can come with its fair share of emotional ups and downs. Your prenatal care team is there to provide support and resources to help you navigate these changes.
- Preparation for Birth: Prenatal care also includes preparing for the big day. This might involve discussing your birth plan, learning about pain relief options, and understanding the signs of labor.
First Trimester Appointments (Through 14 Weeks)
Most women will begin seeing their OB/GYN during the first 8-10 weeks of pregnancy. In other words, as soon as you see those two pink lines on your pregnancy test, it's time to pick up the phone and schedule your first visit.
In some ways, your first appointment will be similar to many of your future appointments. Every prenatal visit includes a urine test, a physical exam to check your weight and blood pressure, and after 12 weeks, an exam to check for fetal heart tones (the baby's heartbeat).
First-trimester visits typically also include a full physical exam, including breast and pelvic exams, a review of your medical history and current health, and blood tests. Your OB/GYN may also discuss with you. These tests can help determine whether the baby is at risk for certain chromosomal abnormalities, but it's entirely your decision whether to have them.
After the first visit, appointments will typically be scheduled every four weeks. Yes, you're going to be seeing a lot of your healthcare provider. But don't worry, they're there to support you every step of the way.
Second Trimester Appointments (15-28 Weeks)
As you enter the second trimester and many of your early pregnancy symptoms, like morning sickness, begin to fade, your baby will start to grow more rapidly. It's an exciting time, but it's also packed with important medical appointments and tests. During the second trimester, your prenatal visits will become increasingly focused on the baby's health.
Throughout the second trimester, you'll have appointments every four weeks. These visits allow your doctor to monitor your health and your baby's development, answer any questions you may have, and provide reassurance that everything is progressing well.
Around week 20, you'll be prescribed a fetal anatomy ultrasound. This detailed scan gives you a sneak peek at your baby, checking their development, and potentially revealing if they are male or female. Additionally, your healthcare provider will measure your fundal height, or the distance from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus. It's a good indicator of how your baby is growing.
Around week 28, you'll be given a lab slip for gestational diabetes screening. This involves drinking a glucose solution and then having your blood tested to see how your body is processing sugars. It's crucial for spotting any signs of gestational diabetes. Remember, every pregnancy is unique, so this timeline might vary slightly based on your personal health and medical history.
Third Trimester Appointments (28-40 Weeks)
As you near your due date, your third-trimester prenatal appointments will become even more frequent. In the last three months of your pregnancy, you’ll likely be seeing your healthcare provider every two or three weeks until week 36. From there, check-ups will happen every week until you give birth.
One of the important things on your third-trimester checklist is the Tdap vaccine. This is usually given between weeks 28 and 36. It's a simple shot that helps protect your baby from whooping cough before they are old enough to get their own vaccinations.
Around week 36, you'll also have a Group Beta Strep (GBS) culture test, unless you tested positive for this earlier in your pregnancy. This is a standard test that checks for bacteria that could potentially be harmful to your baby during delivery.
Starting between weeks 36 and 38, your doctor may begin cervical exams, unless you are scheduled for a cesarean section. These exams help determine if your body is preparing for labor.
Throughout your third-trimester appointments, your health care provider will continue to measure your fundal height, which is the size of your uterus. This helps to track your baby's growth and development.
Lastly, your doctor will discuss with you about being prepared for the arrival of your baby, labor and delivery procedures, and any other concerns you might have. You'll likely receive a hospital registration packet too, so you can familiarize yourself with what to expect on the big day.
These appointments aren't just about getting measurements or ordering another blood test.
They're also an opportunity for you to ask questions and express any concerns. Don't hesitate to bring up anything that's on your mind—no question is too small when it comes to the health and well-being of you and your baby.
Start Crossing Items Off Your Checklist Today!
We believe that prenatal care isn't just about medical check-ups; it's about building a relationship with healthcare providers who can offer support, education, and reassurance during this exciting time. If you have , or if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consider reaching out to Advanced Women’s Care of Pittsburgh to learn more about our services and schedule an appointment. Your health and the health of your baby are our top priority!