Dialogue with your healthcare provider forges a valuable relationship. But after vital signs and basic measurements, you may have little time to talk. Under pressure, you’re likely to freeze and forget about many of the things you’ve been meaning to bring up. To help you out, we polled the experts and gleaned 20 questions worth remembering.
1. Is my weight healthy? “Obesity increases your risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, diabetes and high blood pressure,” says Robert Atlas, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Get personalized advice about how much weight you should gain (or lose).
2. How can I stop smoking?
Use of cigarettes doubles the risk of miscarriage, says Atlas. Your provider can recommend behavior change strategies—and local support groups—to help you quit.
3. Should I change my workout routine?
Kickboxing and ice-skating are out, because of the risk of belly trauma or falling down, but common sense isn’t always enough of a guide. “Certain pregnancy-related conditions may worsen with exercise,” says obstetrician James Betoni, DO, co-author of The Pregnancy Power Workbook. Looser tendons and ligaments make pregnant women more prone to sports injuries, so get a fitness prescription.
4. Should I continue to see my general practitioner and/or specialists?
“Someone has to take the lead on medical care during pregnancy,” says internist Marie Savard, MD, author of Ask Dr. Marie: What Women Need to Know about Hormones, Libido, and the Medical Problems No One Talks About, “and it’s usually the OB/ GYN.” But don’t ignore other providers. A team approach gives you more comprehensive care.
5. Do I need different meds?
Some prescription drugs increase the risk of birth defects, says Savard. Alert your OB to any medications you’re taking. She may switch you to something safer.
6. Am I at risk for gestational diabetes?
Moms who get gestational diabetes are seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes postpregnancy. If you have family risk factors, ask for a hemoglobin A1c blood test, says Savard. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can trigger hidden diabetes.
7. Can I book a longer appointment?
“Patients tend to minimize what they need instead of asking for extra time,” says Savard. The receptionist isn’t just a gatekeeper, she’s an ally. Let her know if you have several concerns to discuss that may require a few extra minutes with the doctor.
8. Would you (please) explain my test results?
If your results don’t make sense, ask for an explanation or retest. Shalini Wittstruck of Snohomish, Washington, was assured that she wouldn’t go into preterm labor based on the results of a fetal fibronectin test. “I wish that I would have followed my gut and pushed back on the test result,” says Wittstruck, whose son was born 10 weeks premature. “Had I sought a second opinion, the preterm birth might have been avoided.”
9. What are the signs of miscarriage?
“Although miscarriages are common, they can be frightening, sad and potentially dangerous,” says women’s health nurse practitioner Camilla Bicknell, RNC, MSN, co-author of The Pregnancy Power Workbook. If you’re worried about miscarriage, talk to your doctor about what the potential symptoms might be so you can seek early medical care if necessary.
10. Am I drinking enough?
“Fluids transport nutrition to your baby, prevent preterm labor, and minimize nausea, bloating and headaches,” says Bicknell. Pale yellow urine is a sign you’re drinking plenty, but if you’re still unsure, ask.
11. Should I get immunized?
Your physician may recommend shots for the flu, hepatitis B and tetanus, especially if you’re at risk, but live-virus vaccines and those for measles, mumps and varicella (chicken pox) may be harmful during pregnancy. Speak up to ensure you’re safe.
12. What are the signs of early, false and real labor?
Braxton Hicks contractions are common in the third trimester, when your uterus is training for the big event. Learn the difference between false labor and the real deal so you don’t stay up all night worrying about an early delivery.
13. When should I go to the hospital?
Your caregiver may want you admitted right away if he’s concerned about labor and delivery complications or preterm birth. Otherwise, you may want to stay home during early labor, so you can eat, drink and rest in the comfort of your own space.
14. What are my pain control options?
A good pain control plan takes your medical situation and preferences into account. Cody Gredler, a new mom in Austin, Texas, found out that placing an epidural can be challenging for patients with minor scoliosis, like herself. “My epidural had to be redone three times, which was not a barrel of laughs,” she says. “But when it was finally put in correctly, it was bliss.”
15. When should I ask for anesthesia?
Every hospital has its own guidelines, says Atlas, and some won’t administer an epidural before you’re dilated to 4 centimeters. If you wait too long, the anesthesiologist may be busy in the operating room when you need relief. Get intel from your doctor or labor nurse. They know the system.
16. Who will attend my birth?
Find out who is on call when your primary healthcare provider is off, says Atlas. Delivery day surprises add unnecessary stress.
17. Could you recommend a lactation specialist?
Seventeen percent of moms who wanted to breastfeed quit in the first four weeks because of sore nipples, concerns about milk supply, or latching difficulties. Consult a pro for pointers.
18. Should I restrict my activities?
The adrenaline rush of new motherhood may cause you to do too much too soon. Before you head home with your newborn, find out how long you should limit exercise and sex. Nurture healthy (and reasonable) expectations.
19. How do I care for my wounds?
If you had tearing during delivery or have stitches from an episiotomy or C-section, infection prevention is top priority. Learn how to clean and soothe your wounds, and find out when you should get a checkup.
20. What are my contraception options?
Ovulation is typically suspended for moms who breastfeed more than six times per day, but there are exceptions, warns Atlas. Ask about birth control before you’re in the mood.