Finding out that you are pregnant is often a time of mixed emotions. As you watch that first pregnancy test turn positive you may experience anything from shock, fear, stress and disappointment to extreme relief and excitement. You may also feel overwhelmed as your mind races while you consider what lies ahead. Be encouraged – you are not alone on this journey!
Here is a quick guide about what to consider regarding your first pregnancy visit.
- When should I book my first appointment?
One of the main goals of the first visit is to confirm that your baby is inside the womb and that a heartbeat is present. This is best done around 8 weeks after the first day of your last period. One is often able to see the heartbeat with an abdominal scan but sometimes a transvaginal scan is needed as it gives much more clarity in early pregnancy.
- Who should come with me?
If you are able, please bring your partner with you as you are on this journey together. The better they are informed and feel part of the process, the better you will experience the journey together. However, if this is not your preference or your partner is not available, you are welcome to bring another person that you feel comfortable with, with you.
- When should I book an earlier visit?
Mild spotting is common around 6 weeks after your last period, however, if you have any heavy bleeding or severe pain then you should make an appointment as soon as you can.
If you are on medication that can be harmful to your developing baby you’d need to make an early appointment, as this will require a complex consideration of what is best for you and your baby which often includes changing the medication.
- What should I be doing before my first appointment?
It is advisable to start taking folic acid. If you are planning a pregnancy then this should be started 3 months prior to falling pregnant. If you are not on folic acid already and you suspect, or have confirmed that you are pregnant, then start as soon as possible. You can go to your pharmacy and ask them for some folic acid.
You also need to do everything you can to keep as healthy as possible. This includes eating a healthy well-balanced diet, stopping smoking and drinking alcohol should these apply, as well as reducing coffee consumption. It is also really important to try and reduce stress as much as possible, and manage stress where unavoidable.
- What will be discussed at the first visit?
Once the baby’s heart beat has been seen there are 5 important things to think about.
- Any individual risk factors and the related management will be considered after a detailed history.
- You will need to change from folic acid to a pregnancy vitamin which also contains iron. The brand you choose is less important, as all the vitamin supplements which are designed for pregnancy should have sufficient iron and folic acid.
- You will need to do routine pregnancy blood tests. This includes your blood group, your iron levels and a screen for various infections that could affect your baby such as hepatitis, syphilis, HIV and rubella.
- A large part of the visit will be dedicated to guiding you through the decision of appropriate screening for the risk of your baby having Down Syndrome. This decision is a personal one and will be discussed in depth in my next post.
- Finally, a short discussion will be had about what to expect about the rest of the pregnancy, when your next appointment will be and the importance of a 20 week ultrasound scan.
- You are also most welcome to bring a list of questions you may have about the pregnancy so all your concerns can be addressed.