What to expect at prenatal appointments

What happens during prenatal visits is different depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy. You should schedule your first prenatal visit around 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy (2-4 weeks after a missed period). Early and regular prenatal visits help your midwife or doctor will check your health and the growth of the fetus.

Jade Elliott spoke with Emily Hart Hayes, a certified nurse midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner with Intermountain Healthcare, about what you can expect at these prenatal appointments.

1. Your first prenatal visit will be one of your longest, so be sure to allow plenty of time. During the visit, you can expect your midwife or doctor to:

  •  Answer your questions. This is a great time to ask questions and share any concerns you may have.
  •  Check your urine sample for infection and to confirm your pregnancy.
  •  Check your blood pressure, weight, and height.
  •  Calculate your due date based on your last menstrual cycle or ultrasound exam.
  •  Perform tests to check for blood type, do a blood count, and check for infections that can affect pregnancy including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, rubella, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
  •  Ask about your health, including medical conditions, surgeries, and previous pregnancies.
  •  Ask about your family health and genetic history.
  •  Ask about your lifestyle, including whether you smoke, drink, or take drugs.
  •  Ask about your home environment and safety.
  •  Discuss exercise and diet.
  •  Discuss immunizations and recommend a flu or COVID vaccine if you haven’t already received these.
  • Do a complete physical exam, which may include a pelvic exam.
  •  Do a Pap test or test for human papillomavirus (HPV) or both to screen for cervical cancer risk if you are due for this screening.
  • Do an ultrasound, depending on the week of pregnancy.
  •  Offer genetic testing: screening for Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities, cystic fibrosis, other specialized testing depending on history.

2. If your pregnancy is healthy, your health care provider will set up a regular schedule for visits that will include a visit every month during the first and second trimesters, and every 2 weeks from 28 to 36 weeks, and weekly from 36 weeks until your birth.

3. As your pregnancy progresses, your prenatal visits will vary greatly. During most visits, you can expect your health care provider to check your blood pressure, measure your weight gain, measure your abdomen (“fundal height”) to check your baby’s growth once you are about halfway through your pregnancy. Your provider will also check the fetal heart rate, feel your abdomen to find the fetus’s position (later in pregnancy), and possibly do tests, such as blood tests or an ultrasound exam.

4. Later in your pregnancy, some of your visits will include tests to check for gestational diabetes (usually between 24 and 28 weeks) and other conditions, depending on your age and family history. In addition, pregnant women should receive a booster of whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

5. After your baby is born, your midwife or doctor will have you set up postpartum appointments, usually at 2 and 6 weeks postpartum. At these visits, your provider will check your blood pressure and do a physical exam to ensure your postpartum recovery is normal. They will also do screening for postpartum mood disorders, such as postpartum depression or anxiety, help you with breastfeeding, and discuss birth control (contraception) and family planning.

To listen to the Group B Strep episode mentioned in this podcast, click here.

For more information about pregnancy or to find a midwife or OB/Gyn visit intermountainhealthcare.org

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.