The single scariest thing about being pregnant is your developing baby’s health. Although you can’t control some things, regular visits to your OB/GYN can help.
Not only are obstetricians your first line of defense for a healthy pregnancy, they can help you be prepared if something is amiss. Starting at week 6 and continuing through delivery and a postpartum check up, there's much to expect from your doctor visits.
Make your first appointment with your obstetrician or midwife as soon as you receive a positive pregnancy test. Initially, a nurse will probably run a confirmatory pregnancy test in office. When you are 6-8 weeks into your pregnancy, regular prenatal visits will begin. A nurse or technician will weigh you, take your vitals, and run through the medical history of both parents and sides of the family. An initial blood test screens your blood type, Rh factor, anemia, and the presence of any STIs. You will also likely answer a few standard questions about how you are feeling to help pinpoint maternal or fetal problems, such as "Have you noticed any swelling in your ankles?" As the months pass, these questions will change. "How often does the baby kick?", for example. A physical exam and Pap smear may be necessary.
Your doctor may order an ultrasound to determine the due date and to check for early complications between weeks 6 and 10. An additional ultrasound is generally performed around weeks 16 to 20. This imaging test can help make sure your baby is in the right position and is growing appropriately. This is also when you can find out the gender (only if you want) and check for signs of congenital issues or abnormalities. Amniocentesis or other tests may be recommended for older moms or those with certain risk factors.
Chronic Health Problems
Managing any health issues you have is key to a healthy pregnancy. Keeping diseases that can directly impact your pregnancy (such as blood disorders, diabetes, and other concerns) under control is especially important. Some of these issues may merit a high-risk obstetrician who is trained in more difficult pregnancies. Health issues that can develop as a result of pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, are also carefully monitored throughout your pregnancy.
Your doctor will ask for a urine sample at each visit, as well. Urine tests are performed to check for bacteria in the urine, high sugar levels, and high protein. As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll start seeing the doctor more often. At first, visits are every four weeks, but the closer you get to your due date, the more frequently you’ll go—first every two weeks and then weekly in the last month or so. Make sure you know at which hospital your doctor performs deliveries and when you should head there. As your due date arrives closer, talk to your doctor about what to expect from the delivery and whether or not you want to induce labor.
Postnatal Check Up
Your obstetrician will likely check up on you a couple of times before you leave the hospital, performing a pelvic exam before you leave and making sure you’re comfortable. You should also set up a postnatal checkup for about six weeks after delivery. You’ll get another pelvic exam to make sure everything is healing well. You can also talk about any concerns you have—if there’s any lingering pain, if you’re still bleeding heavily, or when it’s appropriate to resume intercourse. While it might be fun for the staff to meet your little one, remember your obstetrician is strictly your doctor now. After delivery, your baby should start seeing a pediatrician.