Congratulations, Mama! Pregnancy is such an exciting time in life. From choosing a name, to your baby shower to setting up the nursery there is lots of fun to be had.
But if you’re here, you know that getting on a prenatal appointment schedule right away is important for you and baby’s health.
But if this is your first pregnancy, or the details from your last pregnancy already seem a bit foggy, you’re probably wondering: How often are prenatal appointments exactly? What happens at all of those prenatal appointments? And when do I need to schedule my first prenatal visit?
That’s why I’m sharing this complete guide to prenatal appointments with you today. You can find information about:
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While the frequency of your prenatal visits does change in the third trimester, some things about your prenatal visits stay pretty consistent throughout your entire pregnancy.
Let’s find out what you can expect from each visit and how often they happen.
You should call to schedule your first prenatal appointment as soon as you have a positive pregnancy test. They likely won’t have you come in until around 10 weeks, but you’ll want to get on the schedule right away.
In a low-risk pregnancy the typical appointment schedule is:
There are some reasons that you may need to go to prenatal appointments more frequently than the normal schedule. This might include having pre-existing medical conditions, risk of preterm labor, being over the age of 35, or if any complications or concerns arise as your pregnancy progresses.
If you added up the above section, you might realize that is around 15 appointments during your pregnancy. And if you are fortunate enough to have a pregnancy that progresses without complications, those appointments can feel pretty repetitive. But you don’t want to skip these!
Prenatal care is very important for you and your baby’s health. Regular check-ins with your provider are how complications or concerns can be spotted early and taken care of. Your doctor may also notice warning signs that you wouldn’t be aware of on your own.
Babies of Mothers who DO NOT get prenatal care:
Make time in your schedule for these appointments, you and your baby will be healthier for it.
While there is some variation in what you’ll discuss and some more eventful appointments, every single prenatal appointment throughout pregnancy will include:
I’ll be honest, not every prenatal appointment is filled with joy and excitement, some are actually very routine and a bit boring. However! Some of the ‘milestone’ appointments are definitely worth having your partner accompany you on. It’s his baby too and you’ll want to share in some of your pregnancy firsts together.
So which prenatal visits should he come to?
You are more than welcome to have your partner come to all of your appointments. If scheduling is possible it is a really nice way to feel supported and share this special time. I was always surprised about the questions my husband thought of on the spot that wouldn’t have crossed my mind. We also participated in group prenatal care which really involved the partners and you can read more about below.
But at a minimum, see if your partner can at least come to these appointments:
A low-risk pregnancy typically only has two ultrasounds, one at 12 weeks and one at 20 weeks. You may have a few more than this if there are concerns about baby’s growth, or the technician is unable to get the angles they want during one of the routine ultrasounds because of baby’s position.
Right when you have a positive pregnancy test, you will want to schedule your first prenatal appointment. It’s a good idea to research women’s health providers in your area and give some thought and research where to give birth.
You should decide if you want to work with a certified nurse midwife or doctor, and if your current women’s health practice delivers babies at your hospital of choice.
Knowing the lay of the land in terms of what to expect throughout your pregnancy can be helpful in getting the most out of your appointments. If you are educated on the typical progression of pregnancy, symptoms and decisions you’ll need to make, you will be able to ask better and more thorough questions leading to more discussion during your appointments.
Have an idea of things like:
By getting educated on your own, you will have richer more productive discussions during your appointments.
Have a place to keep your questions and suggestions organized
Additionally, I recommend getting a pretty notebook, or using one of the appointment planning and note sheets in our Nesting Planner, as a place to jot down questions, concerns and symptoms as they pop up between appointments.
This will ensure you don’t forget to mention anything when you are at your appointments, everything will be in one place, and you can jot down any advice your provider suggests.
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant you are going to want to call and schedule your first appointment. They generally won’t schedule and see you until about 8-10 weeks into your pregnancy but you should schedule this right away.
I cannot stress enough the idea of researching providers in your area and not just going to the OB/GYN you’ve been using before now. I’m not saying they may not end up still being your choice, but it’s important to learn about hospitals in your area, the benefits of delivering with a doctor versus a certified nurse midwife and then choosing a prenatal care provider associated with your hospital of choice.
I didn’t realize how many factors go into choosing where to give birth. I have seen mom friends of mine:
Do your research now!
You should look at:
This appointment is mostly a meet and greet to get to know your provider and discuss the changes you will want to make in your life now that you found out you are pregnant.
Because a lot of this appointment is ‘getting to know you’, it’s great if your partner can join you for this one. It will allow them to also know your chosen provider and chime in with questions and concerns. I always find it helpful to have another set of listening ears to absorb information too.
You will also go through the routine procedures of every visit outlined above including a urine sample, blood pressure check, weigh-in and likely get to hear baby’s heartbeat for the first time <3
By understanding what you need to know and do now that you’re pregnant before your appointment, you’ll have a great jumping off point for organizing questions and concerns you have.
Some questions to get your started:
Trina did a lot of research and wrote a thorough overview of first trimester prenatal screenings in her 10-week bump update, but the long and short of it is:
You have two options:
During the first trimester you will have a bloodwork order that commonly includes:
During your second trimester your appointments will continue with frequency of about every 4 weeks as long as your pregnancy is progressing normally. The second trimester prenatal appointment that is the most exciting (in my opinion!) is the 20-week ultrasound! You get to see baby again and find out the gender if you wish. The other big event is your glucose test that checks for gestational diabetes.
The 20-week ultrasound is an exciting one for many parents because they get to see baby again, and baby is looking a lot more like, well, a baby! As my husband put it, a lot less “alien”, heh. It is also almost always possible to see and determine the baby’s sex during this ultrasound.
This ultrasound, known as the ‘anatomy scan’, is also important because it allows the technician to view baby’s growth, development and any abnormalities. Technicians may be able to identify things like brain defects, heart defects, and other organ abnormalities.
Having knowledge of these types of things as soon as possible will allow you and your baby to receive specialized care for the remainder of your pregnancy. It will also give you time to research and prepare to help baby enter the world safely and have an excellent plan for care in place.
If your 20 week ultrasound shows a problem, you will have additional testing done, and may require subsequent ultrasounds and imaging.
Sometime between 26 and 30 weeks you will need to complete a Glucose Screening Test to check for gestational diabetes. This is a routine test during pregnancy that is important for all women to take, because anyone can develop gestational diabetes. It occurs in around 9% of pregnancies and there is no clearly known cause. You can find more information on the American Diabetes Association page for Gestational Diabetes.
So how does the Glucose Test work?
You will go to a blood draw center and upon arrival they will give you a very sugary drink. You usually don’t need to change your diet at all before this test. Once you finish the drink, you will need to wait one hour and then they will draw blood to check your blood-sugar levels.
If you have normal blood sugar levels one hour after drinking the drink, that’s it! You’re in the clear. If you have elevated levels, you will need to go in for a longer 3 hour test.
How will the Glucose Test feel?
It isn’t known for being the most pleasant. Most women dislike the taste and will feel a bit ‘yucky’ for lack of a better term while they wait out the hour. This was my experience. Some women are more sensitive to it and have a very hard time. If you vomit up the drink you will need to come back to re-attempt the test. Read more about Trina’s experience with her Glucose Test.
In the third trimester, your appointments will increase in frequency. Starting now, you will come in every 2 weeks. Once you hit ~36 weeks, you will have weekly visits until delivery. These appointments are an important time to discuss third trimester pregnancy symptoms and bring up any concerns.
Also during these visits, you will be able to discuss birth wishes and options with your provider. Work on your birth plan at home and involve your partner in the process. Then use your discussion at home to get more information and have your provider weigh-in. You can find support with this process in the Birth Smart Nesting Planner, check it out today!
Group B Strep (GBS) is a kind of bacterial infection that is found naturally in the vaginal or rectal areas of about 25% of all healthy women. It is important to check for this during pregnancy because during delivery it puts your baby at risk. While not all babies who are delivered to mothers who test positive for GBS will contract it themselves, it is simply not worth the risk.
If you test positive for GBS you will need to have an IV of antibiotics during labor and delivery. This is not a constant drip, but a dose every 4 hours throughout active labor until baby is born.
Group prenatal care is a less common form of prenatal care in the US but is widely popular and common in other parts of the world. In group prenatal care, you receive prenatal care from about 20 weeks until delivery with other women who have a due date within 2-4 weeks of each other.
Group prenatal care typically includes all of the elements that a routine prenatal visit has, but puts more emphasis on supporting each other emotionally and processing the experience with others who are going through it at the same time.
I participated in group prenatal care during my first pregnancy and am still friends with all of the wonderful mamas I met there. It was amazing to have a support network and sounding board throughout pregnancy. I also felt like there were richer discussions and that I learned so much more because the midwife who facilitated the group planned discussion topics and activities for each 2-hour session.
The other wonderful part was that our partners were welcomed and really involved in the pregnancy experience. Find out if any hospital or providers near you have this wonderful program that is covered by insurance. If not, joining any kind of exercise class or prenatal group will allow you to have a similar supportive and community experience during your pregnancy.
With this guide, you now know what to expect from your prenatal appointments and how preparing and educating yourself between appointments can lead to richer discussion with your provider during your scheduled visits. Take notes throughout your weeks about symptoms and questions as they pop into your head and bring a place to record answers during your appointment.
Now that you’re prepared for the more medical side of things, let us support you on the home front! We are passionate about helping expectant mamas get completely prepared for baby with all of the fun and important non-medical things.
Enroll in the FREE Bump Smart email course today to receive weekly updates and ways to prepare tailored to your week of pregnancy.
Happy pregnancy 😊 We hope to continue to support you on your journey to baby.