Prenatal Care

During this first trimester, it is important to visit your healthcare provider once per month. Your first prenatal care visit will be much longer than the following appointments. During your first visit, your provider will ask you about your health history, do an exam, and order pregnancy-related blood tests.  An ultrasound will be offered at 10-13 weeks as the first part of a genetic screening. Your follow-up appointments will take place every four weeks.

What is Prenatal care?

Prenatal care is the care received during pregnancy. Prenatal care is very important. Women who have regular prenatal care have healthier babies. Regular prenatal care includes blood tests, urine tests, weight gain checks, and blood pressure screenings. Make sure to go to your nurse-midwife or health provider early in your pregnancy. 

Keep all of your appointments.

It is extremely important to go to all your prenatal care appointments, even if you do not have problems. A woman with a low-risk pregnancy that is progressing normally will follow the typical prenatal care schedule shown in the next page.  A woman with a high-risk pregnancy may have to be seen by her healthcare provider more often.

During your first prenatal visit, you can expect your healthcare provider to run a few basic tests and ask you a few questions:

  • Your health, your partner's health, and the health of your close family members. (Don't worry if you don't know the answers to all the questions.)
  • Identify medical problems.
  • Discuss the vitamins and medications you may be taking.
  • Perform a physical exam and a pelvic (internal) exam.
  • Weigh you.
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check a urine sample for infection, protein, and glucose.
  • Might do a pap smear to screen for cancer of the cervix, if due.
  • Estimate your due date.
  • Talk about whether you are going to breastfeed or formula-feed your baby.
  • Make sure you are taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid.

Your healthcare provider will also need to run a few lab tests:

  • Initial blood tests
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Blood type and Rh (There are four major blood types: A, B, AB, or O. The Rh factor is a type of protein on the surface of red blood cells. Most people who have the Rh factor are Rh-positive. Those who do not have the Rh factor are Rh-negative)
  • Antibodies screen
  • Rapid Plasma Regain (RPR)
  • Rubella
  • Hepatitis B
  • HIV test (with your consent)
  • Other tests, depending on your history, such as sickle cell trait and diabetes testing

The rest of your visits will be for further testing and monitoring your pregnancy and your baby's growth:

  • Weight and blood pressure screenings.
  • Measure your belly to see how the baby is growing (middle and late pregnancy).
  • Check for swelling of your hands, feet, and face.
  • Listen for the baby's heartbeat (after the 12th week of pregnancy).
  • Assessing the baby's position by feeling your belly (later in pregnancy).
  • Order tests that are needed, such as blood tests and/or ultrasound.
  • Your provider will ask you if you have any questions or concerns. It's a good idea to write down your questions and bring a list with you so you don't forget to ask.

Remember, whatever you ask or tell your health provider is confidential. This means that he or she can't tell anyone else what you say without permission from you. Please do not be afraid to talk about issues that might be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It is important to tell your provider if you smoke, drink alcohol, or take any drugs, or if your partner hurts or scares you. Your provider needs to know everything about you and your lifestyle so that he or she can give you and your baby the best care.