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10 Things to Expect at Prenatal Visits


Congratulations! You took a home pregnancy test and discovered you are expecting. Your next step should be a call to your OB/GYN, midwife, or other prenatal care professional. They'll want to see you within the next few weeks, and many more times in the next 40 weeks!

Here's what to expect from those monthly (first and second trimesters), then biweekly, then weekly visits.

1. Weigh Ins

Pregnant woman weighing herself on a bathroom scale

Your practitioner will want to monitor your weight throughout your pregnancy, so plan to step on the scale at every visit. According to WebMD, women who are at a normal weight pre-pregnancy should gain between 25-35 pounds during her pregnancy.

2. Blood Pressure Checks

pregnant woman having her blood pressure checked

As is expected during routine doctor visits, blood pressure checks are standard operating procedure at prenatal visits. A pregnant woman's blood pressure can be an indication of how much blood and oxygen the baby is receiving, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health. Women who develop high-blood pressure after 20 weeks are at risk of developing condition called preeclampsia, which needs to be closely monitored.

3. Blood Work

woman having her blood checked

There are a few "pokes" every pregnant woman will need: on the first visit, your doctor will order a blood draw to confirm your blood type as well as check your cell counts and test for STDs. If you elect to do genetic testing, you can expect to provide blood samples in several of those procedures. And there is at least one blood draw in your second trimester as part of the glucose screening (see below).

4. Pelvic Exams

a woman having a health exam

Thankfully, women experiencing normal and low-risk pregnancies get to remain clothed throughout most of their first and second-trimester doctor visits. One exception: your practitioner will perform a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam with a Pap smear, at your first appointment. Late in your third trimester, your doctor will likely do an exam and cervix check at every visit (which by that point will be weekly).

5. Urine Samples

pregnant woman waits to attendance of doctor at the clinic

Plan on giving a urine sample at the beginning of every prenatal visit (so don't empty your bladder before that appointment!). According to NICHD, that sample can tell your doctor two things: one, if it contains glucose, you may (or may not) be on your way to developing gestational diabetes, and two, if it contains protein, you might be developing preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure).

6. Abdomen Measurements

a doctor measuring a pregnant woman's belly

When you begin to show, your practitioner will begin measuring your belly vertically, from the top of your uterus to your pubic bone. She'll be checking your baby's development using a test known as the "fundal height." According to the Mayo Clinic, the extension of your belly in centimeters should correspond with your number of weeks pregnant (so 33 centimeters at 33 weeks, for example); if it doesn't, you could be "measuring big" or "measuring small."

7. Ultrasounds

a pregnant woman having an ultrasound

Every mama-to-be can expect to have at least one ultrasound: between 18-20 weeks, your doctor will refer you for a thorough ultrasound identifying your baby's individual body parts (including genitals, if you want to know the gender!). So that's the big one. Over the course of your pregnancy, your doctor might also conduct a few lower-fi ultrasounds right in her exam room, to check your baby's growth and development. Warning: there is such thing as a trans-vaginal ultrasound!

8. Fetal Heart Rate Checks

a doctor examining a pregnant woman

Every visit will include a listen to your baby's heart to assess its rate. Using a stethoscope or an external Doppler ultrasound wand, your doctor will scan your belly in search of that rapid "whoosh whoosh whoosh." Anywhere from a speedy 110 to 160 beats per minute is normal for a baby in-utero, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

9. Vaccinations

Mother comforting daughter having injection

New vaccine guidelines recommend pregnant women receive a whooping cough (Tdap) booster between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, so look for your doctor to suggest that at the beginning of your third trimester. The antibodies your body creates in reaction to the vaccine will cross the placenta and provide some immunity to your newborn baby in the months before she can be vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many doctors also recommend that pregnant women get a flu shot, as they are an at-risk population.

10. Sickly Sweet Drinks

Waiting for a new life. Beautiful young pregnant woman holding glass with orange juice and smiling while sitting on the couch at home

These aren't the kind you used to order back in college. Sometime between 24 and 28 weeks, you'll take a test to see if you might be developing gestational diabetes. You'll have to swallow an extremely sweet glucose drink and submit to a blood test an hour later to check your sugar levels. Should your level come in on the high side, you might have to return for additional testing, according to the NICHD.

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