Prenatal doctor appointments and other regular prenatal care are an essential part of a healthy pregnancy! If you are currently pregnant, or even just thinking about getting pregnant, you may be wondering, “How often do you go to the doctor when pregnant?” If this is your first pregnancy, you may have no idea what to expect or how many appointments you will be have. The short answer is it depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy. In this blog post, we will discuss how often you should visit your doctor during the different stages of your pregnancy.
The first prenatal visit often happens within a few weeks of getting that positive pregnancy test. At this visit, your doctor will confirm your pregnancy and start to get to know you and your health history. You will continue to have monthly visits up until around 28 weeks. This is when you will start having appointments every two weeks. The appointments will then switch to weekly the closer you get to your due date. If you are a high-risk pregnancy, or have certain health conditions, you may have more frequent appointments than the typical pregnant woman.
For ideas on what to ask your doctor at your first pre-natal appointment, read this post on Questions to Ask Your Doctor When Pregnant: First Prenatal Visit.
If you are currently trying to conceive, you can go to your doctor’s office for a preconception appointment. If you do not have an OBGYN yet, try asking family members or friends for any recommendations. During this visit, your doctor will talk to you about your medical history and overall health. They will also ask about any specific health condition or health issues you have that may affect your pregnancy. Make sure to let the doctor know about any specific health issues in your family history. These may be relevant to your pregnancy. They will also perform a physical exam and order some lab tests. These tests can check for things like certain hormone levels and other important health indicators. If everything looks good, you will be given the green light to start trying for a baby!
If you are not already, this is a great time to start taking a prenatal vitamin to get ready for pregnancy. Make sure the vitamin contains enough folic acid for pregnant women, as this can help prevent neural tube defects. You can also start making healthier choices like getting the proper nutrition and exercising. These lifestyle changes will help you have a healthy pregnancy and ultimately, a healthy baby!
Make sure you mention to your doctor any prescription or over the counter medicines you are currently taking. Some medications are not safe to take during pregnancy. If they are not safe, you may need to find an alternative to start taking now before you get pregnant. Make sure to ask any questions you may have. Your doctor will also give you other important information you need to have a healthy pregnancy. Having this preconception appointment will help you establish yourself with an OBGYN and give you good care moving forward.
1st Trimester Prenatal Appointments
During the 1st trimester, you will usually start your first visit with a dating ultrasound. This occurs somewhere around 6-10 weeks preganant, depending on your doctor or midwife. This ultrasound will check how far along you are measuring and give you an estimated due date. The ultrasound will also let you see or hear the baby’s heartbeat. You will also have a physical exam, and your blood pressure and urine will be checked. Your blood pressure will be checked at every appointment in order to make sure you do not develop high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia. The doctor may also do a pelvic exam with a pap smear if you have not recently had one. If everything looks good, you will likely have your prenatal visits every four weeks during your first trimester.
A high risk pregnancy may require you being seen more often. Many people that go through fertility treatment also receive more frequent appointments in the beginning. These increased appointments help make sure the pregnancy is progressing. The first appointment will usually be a beta and progesterone check. The beta is a blood test that checks the amount of the HCG pregnancy hormone level in your blood. Two tests are usually done at least 48 hours apart in order to make sure your hormone levels are properly rising. Some patients are also referred to an MFM (maternal fetal medicine doctor) who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. If you are referred, you will have appointments with both the MFM and your OBGYN or midwife.
Other blood work taken during the first trimester can check your blood type, including your rh factor, and whether you are immune to certain conditions that could affect your pregnancy, like the chicken pox. Many doctors may also do an STD check to make sure you do not have any sexually transmitted diseases that could transmit to your baby.
The first trimester usually only has one ultrasound, unless you have certain risk factors, are considered high risk, or are receiving fertility treatment and being seen by a reproductive endocronologist (RE). The RE may do multiple ultrasounds until they release you to be seen by your OBGYN or midwife.
Second Trimester Prenatal Appointments
During the second trimester, you will continue to see your doctor or midwife every four weeks. Your appointments will be similar to the first trimester appointments with a physical exam, vital signs check, and blood pressure check. The urine tests will also be at every appointment. The urine sample will be checked for protein. It is also checked to make sure you do not have a urinary tract infection or other bacteria. The health care provider may also start checking your fundal height. The fundal height is the measurement from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus. This helps to make sure baby is growing at a healthy rate. Your weight will be taken at each appointment to track your overall weight gain during the pregnancy. The weight tracking ensures you are not gaining too much weight too quickly.
The second trimester also brings blood tests and other routine tests to check for certain chromosomal abnormalities or birth defects. This includes Down Syndrome, neural tube defects, and the three most common trisomies. You will likely have a second ultrasound during this trimester. This ultrasound is known as the “anatomy scan” or “level two ultrasound.” This ultrasound happens around 20 weeks gestation. It will check how baby is developing, check the baby’s growth, and look at their organs to make sure they are growing properly. If you choose to find out the sex of the baby, this ultrasound will be able to tell you!
At 24 weeks, you will likely take a gestational diabetes test. This is a blood test where you drink or eat something sugary, and then have your blood checked an hour later. If you fail this, you will have to take a three hour test. This is where you have a blood draw once an hour for three hours. If you have a medical condition like PCOS, you may have to take the gestational diabetes test earlier than 24 weeks. Having PCOS can put you at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. If you have PCOS, you may want to read Tips to Boost Fertility and Get Pregnant Quickly with PCOS.
Third Trimester Prenatal Appointments
During the third trimester, you will start to see your OBGYN or midwife every two weeks, starting around 28 weeks of pregnancy. Your appointments will be similar to the first and second trimesters with a physical exam, blood pressure check, and urine test. The fundal height measurement will also be taken at each appointment to make sure baby is continuing to grow properly.
Some health care providers perform an ultrasound during this trimester, which is known as the “growth scan.” This ultrasound checks how baby is growing and can predict their weight at birth. As the baby grows, it can be harder to estimate their weight, so just remember to keep this in mind if your baby is measuring “big” or “small”.
As you get closer to your due date, your appointments will start to be weekly. During these appointments, your healthcare provider will continue to check for the same things as the other appointments. They will check the baby’s position to make sure they are facing head down and are not breech. You may have a vaginal exam to check your cervix and see if you are starting to dilate or efface (thin out).
During the third trimester, you will likely have a group b strep swab. If you test positive for this, you will have to have IV antibiotics during your delivery in order to protect the health of your baby and keep you from passing it to them.
If you have not already, you can also create your birth plan to take to the hospital. This can include anything you want the doctors to know about your wishes. Just know that often things may not go exactly according to your plan. Listen to any medical advice your doctors tell you and make sure you are making the best informed decisions. The most important thing is that you and your baby stay healthy.
You are now reaching the end of your pregnancy! You have made it through nine long months and are now ready to meet your little one. The next few weeks, you can spend getting everything ready for baby’s arrival. Make sure you have a bag packed and ready to go for when you go into labor. Also read When to Start Buying Baby Stuff During Pregnancy: The Ultimate Guide.
It is important to stay on top of your prenatal care appointments in order to make sure you are taking care of both yourself and your unborn baby. Skipping these appointments can lead to certain health problems being undiagnosed, which can put you at higher risk of pregnancy complications. In summary, you will see your doctor every four weeks up until around 28 weeks for uncomplicated pregnancies. The doctor will then see you every two weeks and then weekly. It can sound like a lot of appointments during the course of your pregnancy, but it is very important that you go to them! So, be sure to schedule those appointments and keep them! Your baby will thank you for it.
If you have any questions or concerns about how often you should be going to the doctor when pregnant, be sure to talk to your OBGYN or midwife. They will be able to give you tailored advice based on your individual situation.