Can I be honest with you? I kinda freaked out a bit before my first pregnancy appointment.
I hate doctors appointments. Really, really hate them. And we hadn’t even been planning to get pregnant yet. And yet there I was, approximately three months into our brand new marriage, having a mini panic attack from all the unknowns.
In the weeks leading up to my appointment, I remember stressing out a ton. And really, most of that stress stemmed from the fact that I just didn’t know what to expect.
The last time I had been to a doctor, I was in college. And I was pretty freakin’ sure that a pregnancy appointment would be far different from a sick visit for bronchitis. (I was right about that one, by the way.) But what actually does happen at your first pregnancy appointment?
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Your First Pregnancy Appointment
You’ve peed on a test stick, watched it turn to the “pregnant” indicator. You now know you’re expecting a baby. Congratulations!
The next step on your first trimester to do list is to find an OBYGYN and make your first prenatal appointment. Before you call your chosen doctor to make an appointment, I will say that it is a good idea to give your insurance a call and make sure your doctor and their practice is covered. You definitely don’t want to show up only to realize that your insurance won’t have you covered.
When is your first pregnancy appointment?
Typically, your first pregnancy appointment will be scheduled to take place when you are 6-8 weeks pregnant.
When you call to schedule, they will likely ask what day you started your last period. This date will be used to estimate how far along you are in your pregnancy.
Of course, this estimate isn’t perfect and may be changed after your doctor sees you at your appointment. But, it’s a good starting point and the best way to determine when your first appointment should be.
What should you do before your appointment?
Before you go to your appointment, there’s several things that I recommend you do. A lot of this I didn’t do, and I honestly wish I had. Of course, I didn’t do it because I just didn’t know that I should! Hopefully this will help you out and give you a heads up for the things I wish I had known.
Check with your insurance
First thing’s first: insurance. If you haven’t already, it’s really important to find out what your insurance plan covers. And this doesn’t just include your doctor. You also need to find out if all tests and blood work are covered. Knowing this ahead of time can literally save you hundreds of dollars.
I went into my first pregnancy appointment thinking everything was covered. And for the most part, it was. However, I didn’t know at the time that my insurance wouldn’t cover any kind of genetic testing unless it was requested and approved ahead of time.
So when we were offered the option to have blood work done to test for possible genetic defects and to find out the gender early, we went for it. It wasn’t until later that we realized we would have to pay the $300 out of our own pocket, and it wouldn’t count towards my deductible!
Don’t make the same mistake. Babies and prenatal/delivery bills cost enough already. Don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be.
Do a little research
Before you go to your appointment, do some research on what tests and blood work are typically done. Are they all covered by your insurance? If not, can you afford to pay for them yourself?
Are all the tests and procedures necessary? Are there any that you are uncomfortable with or want to pass on?
Having a feel for the procedures, tests, and blood work that will likely be done will help you out a lot. Being as informed as you can be is extremely important. You can always ask your doctor about anything you have questions on, but it’s also a good idea to do some of your own research as well.
Understand your medical consent rights
Understanding your rights is probably the most important thing you need to do before going to your first pregnancy appointment. Or any doctor appointment, for that matter.
You need to know that you always have the right to say no to any test, blood work, or procedure—for any reason. You cannot be made to do something that you don’t want to do.
Now, you also need to understand that your chosen doctor may refuse to see you if you decline certain things, and that is their right. But if that is the case, then you probably need to find a new doctor anyway.
Ideally, you want a doctor that is willing to come alongside you and help you make the best medical decisions for yourself. Your doctor shouldn’t be there to pressure or bully you to do things you don’t want to do.
Your doctor should be there to work with you for the benefit of your health. And that includes helping you understand and be informed about procedures, as well as fully informing you on risks and rewards of any test or procedure.
This is a huge topic that I could go on about for a while, but for the sake of this post that’s all I’m going to say for now. If you are interested in learning more about your medical freedom and rights, I suggest you follow @essentiallyerin_ on Instagram. She is super sweet, and an incredible wealth of knowledge on this subject.
Make a list of questions
Before you go to your appointment, it’s a very good idea to make a list of any and all questions you have. This is very important. Your first pregnancy appointment can be very overwhelming with a lot of information given to you. It’s very easy to forget things you have questions about.
It’s especially important to remember your questions at this appointment because it will likely be the longest appointment you have until the end of your pregnancy. The first appointment is specifically scheduled to be longer to accommodate how many things happen during it. It’s also planned that way so that you have plenty of time to ask your questions.
As soon as you find out your pregnant, it’s a good idea to start a running list of questions to ask at this first appointment. Be sure to actually write them down. “Mommy brain” is a real thing and starts in pregnancy. Don’t trust your brain to remember everything, especially things this important.
Here are some ideas for questions to ask at your first appointment:
- Is all blood work and tests covered by my insurance?
- What can I do about morning sickness?
- Who will delivery the baby?
- What can I do about any other symptoms I am having?
- What exercises are okay for me?
- How much weight should I be gaining?
- What medications can I take?
- What should I expect at my next appointment?
- Who do I call if I have questions?
- What should I do if I have spotting, cramping, or bleeding?
What to expect at your first pregnancy appointment
You’ve done your research, double checked your insurance, and arrived at your appointment. Now what? If it’s your first time seeing this particular doctor or practice, expect a lot of paperwork.
Arriving early is always a good idea, so that you’ll have plenty of time to fill out any paper work. Once your paperwork is filled out and signed and you’ve been called back, here’s what you can expect from your first pregnancy appointment.
The dreaded urine sample. Not because it’s uncomfortable or anything like that, but because it’s so stinkin’ hard to pee in a tiny little cup.
But get used to it, you’ll be asked to give one at every appointment, including your postpartum appointment(s). And just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, your bump will suddenly grow and it’ll be nearly impossible to see anything down there, let alone where you’re peeing. (Can you tell I was not a fan?)
Next up is a regular vitals check. You’ll be weighed, and your temperature and blood pressure taken. This part is a pretty normal part of any kind of visit to the doctors. And, it should be a normal part of any and all subsequent visits.
During your first pregnancy appointment, your nurse will likely ask you a myriad of questions during this time as well. Think questions like how you’re feeling, and if you’ve had any bleeding or strange symptoms. She’ll also calculate a tentative due date, which will likely be confirmed or adjusted by sonogram later.
Measure uterus and breast check
Once your nurse is done with the preliminary stuff, your doctor will come in for her part of the visit. Your doctor will measure your uterus, and perform a breast exam.
I’ll be honest, the breast exam is kind of an awkward, weird part of the visit. Your doctor should check for any lumps, and anything else out of the ordinary. It’s weird, it’s awkward, but it’s usually pretty quick.
Listen to heartbeat
Next is everyone’s favorite part—listening to the baby’s heartbeat! Lubricate is put on your stomach—hopefully warm, but mine was cold—to help the Doppler slide easily on your stomach.
Your doctor uses the Doppler to find and hear your baby’s heartbeat. It can be a little difficult to find sometimes, so be patient. Once it’s found, you’ll be able to hear both your own heart and your baby’s. Your baby’s heartbeat is much quicker than your own—that’s normal.
Sometimes your doctor may not be able to find your baby’s heartbeat during the first appointment. Don’t let that scare you. This is often because you are not as far along as previously thought. If your appointment was scheduled too early, your baby may not be developed enough for the heartbeat to be picked up.
I’d like to argue that the pelvic exam is the worst part of the first pregnancy appointment. Of any appointment that includes it, really. It’s uncomfortable at best, and can possibly be painful.
For the pelvic exam, you will need to undress, and will likely be given either a gown or a pair of pants that have a huge hole in the crotch area. Basically they’re pants without the crucial crotch seam. I think the point of them is to help you feel less exposed and relax more, but it’s still weird and super awkward.
Once you’ve changed, you’ll be asked to lay on the table with your butt right on the edge. Your legs will be supported by stirrups on either side.
During this exam, your doctor will be checking your cervix, the shape of your vagina (knowing this will help later during delivery), and taking a swab for a pap smear. While it’s uncomfortable, try your best to relax. The more relaxed you are, the quicker it will go and less uncomfortable it will be.
At the end of your appointment, your doctor will order blood work to be done for you. You’ll need to go to the practice’s lab to have blood drawn. One thing that surprised me was the amount of blood that was taken. I don’t remember the exact number of vials that was drawn, but it was a lot!
Of course, the amount of vials drawn will vary from person to person. I had never had my blood drawn, so they didn’t even have my blood type on file or anything. Even if you have had blood drawn before, expect them to draw numerous vials. And if you have or have had a preexisting health condition, expect them to ask for even more.
While blood isn’t taken at every appointment, it will likely be drawn at several appointments during your pregnancy. If needles freak you out, or you’re very squeamish about blood, you can ask if there’s somewhere you can lie down while they take it.
Lying down can help prevent you from getting lightheaded and dizzy. And if you do happen to pass out, you’ll already be lying down and won’t have to worry about hitting anything.
Last but not least, you will likely be scheduled for a sonogram to confirm or adjust your baby’s due date. Depending on your doctor’s setup, you may have the sonogram at your appointment, or you may need to come back later. Personally, I had to schedule one at the hospital a couple weeks later.
This early sonogram is used to get a more accurate due date. Your baby will also be measured and his/her growth checked on to be sure everything is developing properly.
If you’re hoping for a sonogram picture, be sure to ask for it! At this early stage, there’s not a lot to see and it’s not as “photogenic” as your second trimester sonogram. For that reason, you may not be offered a copy of the pictures. But if you’d like them, don’t be afraid to ask.
Congrats on your pregnancy!
So, that’s what you can expect for your first prenatal appointment! I hope that this information is helpful to you—I wish I had known a lot of it before I went to my first appointment. Knowing what to expect can be a game changer when it comes to your experience with it.
Do you have any concerns about your first appointment? Or are you super excited for it? Let me know in the comments below!