Here's What Really Happens During Your First Prenatal Appointment

Prenatal care is an essential form of preventive care in the United States. While prenatal care may seem daunting when you first find out you're pregnant, it doesn't have to be.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health emphasized the importance of improved and accessible prenatal care, especially for minority women. In the early 1900s, prenatal care was focused on fetal abnormalities and risk reduction (via the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing). It wasn't until the 1980s and 1990s that reports were published shifting the focus to health promotion, including psychosocial care. However, prenatal care in the United States is still largely focused on risk assessment rather than education and support.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, adequate prenatal care is critical, as inadequate care is associated with a greater risk of complications. Currently, it's recommended that this care is a coordinated effort, follows evidence-based informed processes, and is managed by a small team. Prenatal care usually consists of routine examinations, dietary guidance, and counseling on topics, such as breastfeeding and childbirth education.

Don't fear your initial appointment

At your first prenatal appointment, your doctor will typically give you a full check-up (via Planned Parenthood). This visit is usually the longest, as it includes an extensive examination and look at your history. Your doctor will ask about your medical history, as well as the other parent's and your family's medical histories. The exam typically includes blood and urine tests, checking vital signs, breast and pelvic exams, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. They may also talk to you about diet and supplements, particularly folic acid.

You can book your first prenatal appointment as soon as you find out you're pregnant (via Planned Parenthood). If you're between the ages of 18-35 and are generally healthy, you'll typically have appointments ‚Äč‚Äčevery 4-6 weeks for the first 32 weeks, then every 2-3 weeks until the 37th week, and then each week until delivery. If you're considered high risk, you may need to be seen more often.