Seeing a doctor early and often is one of the best ways to help ensure a healthy pregnancy. In fact, women who get prenatal care have healthier babies and are less likely to deliver prematurely or have other serious pregnancy problems than those who don’t. So, as soon as you think you might be pregnant, make an appointment to see your doctor.
At your first checkup, which will probably be your longest, your doctor will ask about your health history and past pregnancies. He or she will likely give you a physical exam, including a pelvic exam to check your uterus and other reproductive organs. You’ll also have routine blood and urine tests, and your doctor will estimate your baby’s due date.
Throughout your prenatal care, your doctor will continue checking the progress of your pregnancy and monitoring your and your baby’s health. For instance, your doctor will track your weight gain and will check the baby’s heartbeat, growth, and position.
Your doctor will also look for problems that could affect your pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, or certain infections. With early and regular prenatal care, it’s easier to spot — and treat — potential complications in their beginning stages. In addition, you may be offered tests to help find birth defects.
It’s important to keep all of your prenatal appointments; they’ll occur more often as your due date draws nearer. Your prenatal schedule might look something like this:
- Monthly doctor visits during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy.
- Visits every two weeks until the 36th week.
- Weekly visits after that until you give birth.
You’ll need more frequent visits if you’re at increased risk for complications.
During prenatal visits, you’ll also learn about other healthy things you can do for yourself and your unborn baby, such as:
- Eating right.
- Taking prenatal vitamins.
- Avoiding certain foods and other substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes, that could harm your baby.
Dr. William E. Gist specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology with UT Erlanger Women’s Health Specialists. For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Gist, call 423-778-2564 or visit www.erlanger.org.