Every mom-to-be dreams of a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor wants this too – and they’ll make sure everything is going well by monitoring you throughout your pregnancy. This means that you will undergo several routine appointments and tests. Having a clear picture of what to expect will make these tests seem less overwhelming.
In general, plan for 10 to 15 appointments during a typical pregnancy. At each appointment, your practitioner will:
- Weigh you
- Check your blood pressure
- Take a urine sample to check for too much protein, which can indicate preeclampsia, and glucose, which indicates gestational diabetes
- Check for swelling of your face, hands, or feet
- Listen for your baby’s heartbeat (after week 10)
- Measure your belly to assess your baby’s size and position (during second and third trimesters)
A typical, full term pregnancy is 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period, divided into three trimesters. Each trimester reflects physiological changes in your body and the stage of your baby’s development. Because of this, your prenatal appointments will also evolve, as new information can be gathered to better support you and the child growing inside you.
First Trimester: Weeks 1-12
Following a positive result on an at home pregnancy test, contact your physician to schedule your first prenatal appointment, which will occur between weeks 6 and 8 of your pregnancy. Most women see their doctor monthly during the first trimester. At your first appointment, you can expect:
- Your first ultrasound will reveal your due date, rule out an ectopic or tubular pregnancy, locate a fetal heartbeat, and determine the number of fetuses.
- A pap smear to assess for abnormal cervical cells, bacterial infections, or sexually transmitted diseases.
Other tests that may be offered between weeks 10 and 13 are a Noninvasive Prenatal Screening and a Nuchal Translucency Screening. These tests can help determine your baby’s risk for genetic conditions, like Downs Syndrome. However, they are not diagnostic and not all women will need them.
Second Trimester: Weeks 13-27
You will continue to visit your practitioner once a month during your second trimester. During this time, you can anticipate a few additional tests:
- Anatomy Ultrasound. This ultrasound will illustrate a clearer picture of your baby’s development and his or her sex.
- AFP blood test (16 weeks) to screen for spina bifida
- Glucose Challenge Test(26-28 weeks)to screen for gestational diabetes.
Third Trimester: Weeks 28-birth
At this point, you will begin seeing your physician more frequently. From weeks 28-36, you will have appointments every other week, and every week from 36 weeks to birth. In addition to the assessments you have become accustomed to, your practitioner will likely suggest:
- TDAP Vaccine(28-36 weeks)to protect your baby from unwanted illness, such as pertussis.
- Group B Strep(35-37 weeks) to screen you for bacteria that can be passed to your baby during childbirth. If you screen positive, your provider will give you antibiotics to keep your baby safe.
It’s possible that your provider might want to perform a non-stress test or a biophysical profile as you near the end of your third trimester, especially if you pass your due date. Don’t worry! These are additional ways of monitoring your baby to ensure a healthy delivery.
Each of these tests are important because they reveal critical information about you and your baby’s health. Many women find that familiarizing themselves with what to expect helps to alleviate stress. To this end, communicate openly with your doctor, and celebrate each appointment as another successful milestone!