How to Make the Most of Your First Prenatal Appointment

Last Updated: February 16, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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Congratulations on your pregnancy, mama! At this point, I’m guessing you’ve got your positive pregnancy test and your first prenatal appointment is right around the corner. This is such an exciting time!

I know that for me, getting that positive pregnancy test was pretty surreal and almost abstract. The wait for the first appointment can feel like FOREVER. Finally getting to go in definitely makes it all seem so much more real!

Here I put together a little guide for your first prenatal appointment. We’ll go over a bit about what you can expect from your prenatal appointments in general, too.

Knowing what to expect and taking some extra time before your appointment to organize your thoughts and questions can go a long way in getting the most out of your prenatal care.

All right, are you ready to get into it? Let’s unpack your first prenatal appointment so you’ll know exactly what’s going to go down!

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When to make your first prenatal appointment

Okay, so I question I get a lot over on Instagram is WHEN to actually make your first prenatal appointment. The short answer is that within a week or two of getting your positive pregnancy test, you should go ahead and call your provider and let them tell YOU when to come in.

Typically, that will be sometime between weeks 8 and 10 of pregnancy (and remember, the day after your missed period is usually week 4ish). But, depending on your health history and whether or not you know when your last missed period was, they may have you come in a bit sooner.

But before you make that call to schedule your appointment, I actually recommend doing a bit of research on where you plan to deliver and who you’d like your provider to be! I know it sounds a little crazy to be thinking about this now. The advantage is that you can begin your prenatal care with a practice that definitely delivers where you plan to give birth at.

You can find a bit more info about choosing a birthplace and provider in the article, First Trimester Checklist.

Prenatal appointment schedule

Okay, so you know your first prenatal appointment will be sometime between weeks 8 and 10. But what about all the other recommended appointments that are a part of your prenatal care?

Let me break it down for you:

  • Weeks 4-28: You will have an appointment every 4 weeks
  • Weeks 28-36: You will start having appointments every 2 weeks
  • Weeks 36-birth: You will have an appointment every week

There are of course exceptions to this standard prenatal care plan. Depending on your health history or potential complications that arise during your pregnancy you might be seen a bit more.

What to expect at each prenatal appointment

Okay, so before we dive into the very first prenatal appointment, I think it’s helpful to go over what will happen at each appointment. By in large, your prenatal appointments are a check-in with your provider where they are looking for any red flags.

By doing simple routine screenings at each appointment (blood pressure check, urine sample, weigh-in) they can actually gather a lot of info and spot potential issues before they become threatening. This is why keeping up with the ACOG recommended prenatal care schedule is so important!

Let’s take a look:

  • Weight check: Typically, the first stop at your prenatal appointment will be at the scale. The main purpose for these regular weigh-ins is to check for sudden jumps in weight gain or weight loss. If weigh-ins are causing you any stress or anxiety, you can let your provider know and step on the scale backwards
  • Urine sample: Next, you’ll need to give a urine sample in the bathroom. This is screened for excess sugar and protein in your urine, which can indicate issues such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or other infections. It’s a great way to give your provider a quick glance at what’s going on in your body to help with early detection of complications
  • Blood pressure check: Once you are in the exam room, a nurse will check your blood pressure. Again, this is a way that your provider can get a sense of what’s going on. High blood pressure can be an indicator of preeclampsia or gestational hypertension. It’s important to note that low blood pressure is considered a normal part of pregnancy because as your blood volume increases so does the diameter of your veins
  • Listen to baby’s heartbeat: Once your provider comes in, they will have you lie down and use a fetal doppler monitor on your abdomen to listen to baby’s heartbeat. This is often everyone’s favorite part of the appointment! Note, that sometimes your provider won’t be able to hear baby’s heartbeat at your first appointment but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong! I always like to set that expectation for mamas so they don’t experience undue stress
  • Feel your abdomen to check baby’s position: As your pregnancy progresses, it is typical for your provider to palpate your abdomen to check baby’s position. This usually won’t happen until later in the second trimester and during the third trimester
  • Measure fundal height (after 20 weeks): This is a measurement that is taken at every prenatal visit starting at week 24! It’s a vertical measurement of your abdomen from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus and the number helps us to estimate baby’s length and weight. Your fundal height usually matches the numbers of weeks you are pregnant, plus or minus 2 centimeters. For example, 24 centimeters = 24 weeks pregnant. It’s a great way for us to track baby’s development and growth and can tip off the need for an ultrasound if growth seems off
  • Discussion with your provider: Finally, every appointment is an opportunity for you to discuss any questions or concerns with your provider. They may have some talking points and information sheets for you about upcoming milestones or screenings in your pregnancy as well. Don’t be shy about asking any and all questions that come to mind! I’ll talk a bit more about this in the tip section below

What to expect at your first prenatal appointment

So, everything listed above (with the exception of the fundal height measurement) will happen at your first prenatal appointment, but some other things will happen too!

Often, the first prenatal appointment is one of the longest. If you have a partner, I recommend having them come to this appointment if possible. It’s a nice way for them to get involved in your pregnancy from the start, and can help make it all feel more real!

Things you can expect at the first prenatal appointment:

  • Confirmation of your pregnancy: This may be done with a simple urine test or an ultrasound
  • Review of you and your family’s health history: A lot of this appointment will be spent answering questions about your healthy history, your partner’s health history, and you and your partner’s immediate family health history. This helps your provider assess risk factors for you and baby
  • A pelvic exam and pap smear: If you are due for a pap smear, your provider will likely do one at this appointment. It’s also typical for your provider to perform a pelvic exam at this appointment
  • Calculate your due date: Your provider will ask you what your last missed period date is, as well as the conception date, if you know it. With this information your provider will help calculate your due date. If you do not know the date of your last missed period, your provider will probably order a dating ultrasound. These are very accurate in predicting baby’s gestational age
  • Order blood work: After this appointment, you will have an order in for blood work. Usually this includes a complete blood cell count (CBC), a blood type check, Rh check, and antibody screen
  • Talk about the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy: Another big part of the conversation and discussion at this appointment will be an overview of how to stay safe during pregnancy
  • Discuss lifestyle habits: Building off of the do’s and don’ts, your provider will ask about your lifestyle habits (diet, exercise, hobbies, etc.) to help assess what’s safe to continue, what you need to stop, and changes you can make for a healthier pregnancy
Prenatal care workshop

How to prepare for your first prenatal appointment

The best way to prepare for your first prenatal appointment is by making sure you have answers to all their questions! Here’s the information you should prepare:

  • The first day of your last menstrual period
  • Date of conception if known (some women know this if they were tracking ovulation)
  • Your medical history including your gynecological, obstetrical, and mental health history
  • You and your partner’s immediate family’s health history (this is why it’s helpful to have your partner there if possible!)
  • Medicines you are currently taking, including vitamins, supplements, herbal products, OTC, and prescription medications
  • Previous and current use of tobacco products, alcohol, cannabis, and illegal drugs
  • Any questions you may have

Important questions to ask at every prenatal appointment

Are you sensing a theme here? I know I keep bring up questions, but mama, asking lots of questions is one of the BEST ways that you can be an active participant in your prenatal care. It also helps your provider better assess and care for you.

When it comes to advocating for yourself during pregnancy and birth, questions are such an important starting point!

So, here’s a starter list of questions to ask at EVERY appointment:

  • How much weight have I gained since my last appointment? How much weight have I gained in total? Is this considered a healthy pace for my body and pregnancy?
  • What is my blood pressure? Is this within a healthy range for pregnancy?
  • What is my baby’s heart rate? Is this within a normal range?
  • When is my next appointment? Are there any upcoming screenings, tests, or ultrasounds I should be aware of?

First prenatal appointment questions

And then, specific to your first prenatal appointment, here are some additional questions to have handy:

  • How often will I have prenatal appointments?
  • Am I at increased risk for any specific complications or conditions?
  • What type of screenings do you recommend and when should they be done?
  • How much weight should I gain and at what rate?
  • Is there a particular prenatal vitamin that you recommend?
  • What over-the-counter medications are safe to take?
  • Are there any foods I should avoid eating? How much water should I drink per day?
  • Should I be exercising? What kinds and amounts are safe?
  • Are there are travel restrictions I should know about while pregnant?
  • Do I need to make any changes to my beauty routine? (Hair coloring, massage, nail painting, etc.)
  • Do I need to make any other lifestyle changes based on my hobbies, interests, or career?
  • What pregnancy symptoms are normal? What’s an emergency?
  • What should I do if I don’t feel well? Is there an on-call provider available to answer questions after hours?

Tips and tricks to make the most of your prenatal appointments

Mama, engaging in regular prenatal care beginning in the first trimester is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby’s safety during pregnancy!

Research has shown that it reduces your risk of pregnancy complications, helps your provider control existing conditions, and reduces your baby’s risk of health issues (source).

6 tips and trick to help you make the most of your prenatal appointments

  1. Don’t skip your prenatal care! Even in a low risk pregnancy, following the ACOG recommended schedule of appointments is so important
  2. Be ready to provide a urine sample at each appointment – I always liked to drink some water on the way there to make sure I had to go
  3. Wear clothes that allow for easy access to your belly. I’d skip the maxi dresses and opt for a t-shirt instead
  4. Prepare questions ahead of time. If you have a question for your provider, jot it down in the notes section of your phone or get a little notebook. This will help make sure you don’t forget anything on the day of your appointment
  5. Keep your provider’s name and phone number on your refrigerator, as well as a list of important signs and symptoms for when to call your provider
  6. Have your partner join when possible, or Facetime/Zoom them in if policies don’t allow them to be there. It’s so helpful to have an extra set of ears listening to advice and recommendations, and your partner probably has questions too! If they can’t come to all of your appointments, the big ones are the first appointment, the 12-week ultrasound, the 20-week anatomy scan, and a few appointments in the late 3rd trimester when you’ll be discussing your birth plan.

You’re ready for your first prenatal appointment, mama!

Well, there you have it! With this guide, you should be feeling confident and ready for that first prenatal appointment. I know the wait may seem like forever, but I promise it will be here soon enough.

In the meantime, don’t miss some of our other first-trimester content:

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Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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