Your first antenatal (pregnancy) appointment is exciting and is probably the longest time-wise of your appointments while you’re pregnant. The appointment is an opportunity for your caregiver to take your history and set up a schedule of ongoing appointments for the rest of your pregnancy. Its also the perfect time for you to get answers to any questions you might have. Some women are apprehensive about this appointment thinking that there may be uncomfortable, embarassing or invasive tests done but that’s generally not the case at all.
So what happens at your first antenatal appointment?
The date of your last period and the length of your cycles. This will help work out your baby’s expected due date (EDD). Don’t be surprised to find that the estimated due date that you are given is different to the one you might have found online: this is because there are more variables than just the date of your last period. Your OB or midwife may also offer you a dating scan, even if you’re certain of the date of your past period. Research has shown that when an EDD is calculated with the help of an early pregnancy scan, there tend to be fewer inductions for pregnancies that have progressed beyond 41 weeks, compared to dating using the last menstrual period alone.
You will be asked about any previous miscarriages, terminations or births.
A history of your health will be developed which may include some questions about close relatives’ health (ie. questions around diabetes, blood pressure etc). This is so that any health issues that may cause a problem in your pregnancy are identified early and certain screening tests are available for genetic conditions and you may wish to avail yourself of these.
There will be a couple of quite personal questions also. Your care provider needs to care for you holistically, for all of you, so questions around your emotional and psychological health as well as asking you if there is any domestic violence in your home or behaviours you are concerned about.
You will be asked where you want to have your baby. OBs and private midwives generally offer a choice of birth place (usually a choice of one or two hospitals they have visiting rights at) as well as homebirth options where they are available. It’s perfectly ok to be undecided at this first appointment and to ask for some time to do some research and decide later on.
This is the part that some people are concerned about, but you need not be. None of the tests are terribly invasive and you will almost always stay dressed
A urine test — this test is used to check for pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
A blood test — you will have a blood test which will include a full blood count and testing for various diseases.
A blood pressure check.
An ultrasound scan may be done if the equipment is present, otherwise you will be referred to an ultrasound clinic. The ultrasound is done to check your baby is doing OK, to see how many babies you are carrying and also to establish your EDD.
Listening to the baby’s heartbeat — this may be the first opportunity you’ve had to hear your baby’s heart. Its a very special moment and its such a shock to hear just how fast their little hearts beat!
Tummy examination — You may have a tummy exam on the outside of your belly just to check baby is growing properly and that your uterus is in the right place.
Once all the talking and testing is done you will have the opportunity to discuss any concerns you might have and ask any questions you would like to. An ongoing schedule of appointments will be set up so that you have regular appointments during your pregnancy that get closer together as your baby’s EDD gets closer, often every 4-6 weeks and eventually weekly till baby arrives.
Remember you don’t have to wait for your next appointment to speak to your care provider if something is bothering you. Most times there will be a number you can call as well as a 24 hour emergency number offered.