You’ve taken a pregnancy test and saw two lines appear—congratulations! You’re most likely pregnant.
You’re probably basking in the moment now, but you know what’s coming next: prenatal visits.
Prenatal care is an essential aspect expectant mothers shouldn’t skip. It ensures a successful pregnancy and keeps you and your baby healthy throughout the entire journey.
Worried about what’s in store for you in the next three months? Here’s a breakdown of what to expect during your first trimester.
Your Body Changes
Pregnancy can change your body in many ways. But during the first trimester, physical changes are still subtle.
The first sign you may expect is a missed period. Over the next few weeks, you will then experience mood swings, unexplainable tiredness, breast tenderness, headaches, and heartburn, among others.
You may also notice a craving or revulsion for certain foods. It’s best to have small frequent feedings during this phase.
These are common symptoms women face in the first trimester, but you may not get any of these at all. Every pregnancy is different for every woman.
Your First Doctor’s Visit
It’s advisable to visit your doctor as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. This will be the start of your prenatal care. The earlier you begin your doctor’s visits, the earlier your doctor can start looking after your developing baby.
During your first prenatal visit, your doctor will most likely do the following:
- Prescribe prenatal vitamins
- Request an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy
- Perform a Pap smear
- Test for HIV or hepatitis
- Give an estimate due date (based on the first day of your last menstruation)
Your due date does not necessarily mean the date you will deliver. Rather, it’s when you’ll be forty weeks (or full-term) pregnant. Still, the due date is important. It guides your doctor and the medical team in monitoring your pregnancy. It also helps them schedule certain tests and procedures accordingly.
Your doctor needs a baseline measurement to check your progress throughout pregnancy. A physical exam will include the following:
- Measuring your weight and height
- Calculating your BMI, or body mass index
- Checking your blood pressure
- Checking your blood-oxygen levels (through a portable pulse oximeter)
Your BMI will determine your recommended weight gain to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Women with average weight before being pregnant are expected to gain twenty-five to thirty-five pounds throughout the pregnancy. These values vary for women who are underweight, overweight, or obese.
Aside from a physical exam, you may undergo other examinations. This includes a breast exam, pelvic exam, and other screening tests for the thyroid, heart, and lungs.
Expect your health-care provider to perform some blood tests during your first visit.
First, your doctor needs to identify your blood type and Rhesus (Rh) factor status. Rh factor is a specific protein found in red blood cells that’s inherited from both parents. Your pregnancy might need special care if the baby’s father is Rh-positive and you’re Rh-negative.
Your hemoglobin will be checked as well. Your blood needs hemoglobin to deliver oxygen throughout the body and release carbon dioxide through the lungs. Low hemoglobin levels indicate anemia—a condition that can affect your pregnancy.
First Trimester Screening
Aside from blood tests and routine screening tests, your doctor will give the option to undergo nuchal translucency. This is a more in-depth type of ultrasound—which is done between weeks eleven and thirteen—that screens your baby for chromosomal abnormalities. This test helps determine if your baby has Down syndrome and other genetic problems.
During the test, your doctor will use an abdominal ultrasound to measure the nuchal fold—an area of tissue at the back of the fetus’s neck. Normally, unborn babies retain some fluid in this area. In case of a baby with Down syndrome, this area holds more fluid than usual, making the tissue appear thicker.
If the test result is abnormal, expect to undergo other tests to confirm the presence of a genetic disorder. Usually, your doctor will request an amniocentesis as your pregnancy progresses.
Starting Prenatal Care Right
Your first-trimester visits are the perfect opportunity to air out doubts and concerns to your doctor. Partnering with a professional throughout this exciting journey will give you peace of mind. Make sure to consult your doctor right away if you notice any abnormalities in your pregnancy.