Your prenatal visits will help you learn how your provider will help you during your pregnancy, each step of the way.
Before becoming pregnant, you may have adopted good health habits to prepare for your baby. But if you didn’t, start today. One of the first steps is learning how to take care of yourself and schedule prenatal visits. See your healthcare provider as soon as you think you may be pregnant — then, continue prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.
With consistent prenatal care, you’re part of a team that includes you, your baby and your healthcare provider. (Your team also may include a partner or a main support person. He or she could be a loved one, like a spouse, a family member or a friend.) During your prenatal visits, your healthcare provider will guide you through your pregnancy by answering questions and monitoring your progress. There will also be various pregnancy tests to make sure you’re on track. They’ll also be able to find new concerns and manage existing ones before problems happen. Here’s what to expect at your visits:
- Your healthcare provider will evaluate the health of your pregnancy. At your first prenatal visit, your provider will calculate a “due date” that gives an estimate of the delivery of your baby. (Many women give birth between 38 and 41 weeks of pregnancy. Your due date is determined by counting 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period.)
- Your healthcare provider will check the progress of your pregnancy. This includes your baby’s growth, fetal heart rate, changes in your weight and blood pressure, and your overall health and comfort.
- Your healthcare provider will check lab work through blood and urine. This will change depending on the trimester, but will include checking iron, sugar and protein levels that could indicate anemia, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
- Your healthcare provider will discuss normal changes that happen during pregnancy. Some changes and discomforts are completely normal; some may point to complications. Your provider will address these issues and recommend appropriate lifestyle changes or further screening.
- Your healthcare provider will ensure you’re following healthy habits. These include avoiding smoking and drinking; taking folic acid and vitamin supplements; avoiding exposure to harmful substances, like pesticides and radiation; getting regular exercise; following a healthy, balanced diet; and staying hydrated.
- Your healthcare provider will answer your questions. (All of them.) Your provider wants to help you feel as prepared as possible for the labor and delivery of your baby.
Marylou Smith, MSN, CNM, BSN, is a wife, mother and advance practice nurse serving the women of Wilson County and beyond. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with her master's degree in Nursing and Midwifery in 2006, she joined Renaissance OB-GYN, a small private practice in Cortland, NY, where she attended the birth of more than 600 babies and provided care for women throughout their lifespan. In 2013, she joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she is now Assistant Division Director for Advance Practice Nurses in the Department of OB-GYN. She makes her home in Mount Juliet with her husband, son and daughter.