Make sure you cover all the bases at your first prenatal appointment.
Perhaps you interviewed a dozen midwives before finding the right one, or maybe your maternity care will continue with the same family doctor you’ve seen and loved for years. No matter your circumstances, the first prenatal appointment is a big one. Not only will your care provider be checking to make sure you and baby are both on track, but you’ll also have the opportunity to ask all those burning questions you’ve wondered about since first seeing that positive pregnancy test—along with a few you probably haven’t even thought of yet. Here are some things you’d be wise to bring up at your initial visit.
1. Should I make any changes to my diet? Even though you don’t need to up your calorie intake until your second trimester, it’s important to ensure you’re eating healthily for your budding bean. Discussing your regular diet with your provider and getting her input will help you evaluate what you’re doing right—and what you might be missing. It’s especially critical to discuss your eating habits if you have dietary restrictions or are having trouble keeping down food due to nausea.
2. Is that glass of wine I drank before I knew I was pregnant a big deal? This is a common worry because it’s well known that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) can have devastating effects on a fetus. However, Diane Hlavacek, MD, an OB/GYN in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers some reassurance: “Alcohol in the system at or around the time of conception [shouldn’t] cause problems.” Regardless, go ahead and let your provider know about it, and heed Hlavacek’s advice to stop consuming alcohol as soon as you discover you are expecting. Unlike many other disorders, FASDs are 100 percent preventable.
3. How much weight should I gain? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women of normal weight gain between 25 and 35 pounds over the course of pregnancy. However, your provider can help you fine-tune that number. If you are under- or overweight, are expecting multiples, or fall under the umbrella of a handful of other factors, you might need to gain less or more than average.
4. Can I continue working out? The answer to this question is most likely “yes,” with a few exceptions. If you participate in high-impact activities—think horseback riding or contact sports—you’ll need to abstain during your 40-week stint, and a high-risk pregnancy could result in some exercise restrictions as well. Staying active while expecting has myriad benefits, though, so most moms-to-be are encouraged to keep up their workout routines. If you were previously a couch potato but suddenly feel compelled to get moving, ask your provider for the best way to safely implement a new routine.
5. When should I start sleeping on my side? “The reason patients are encouraged to sleep on their sides is to displace the weight of the pregnant uterus off of the large vessels returning blood to the heart,” Hlavacek explains. Normally, your uterus won’t become heavy enough to make this necessary until somewhere around or after the 20-week mark. But as with everything, it’s important to get your provider’s opinion on when to make the move—as well as get some tips for the transition if side-lying isn’t your preferred position.
6. Is it still OK to have sex? In the majority of cases there is no reason to restrict sex during pregnancy, but the best practice is always to ask. If you’re not up for sex much these days, that’s normal, too—and your care provider can ease your worries if you’re feeling off-kilter or concerned. (Good to know: Sex drives tend to rev back up in the second trimester.)
7. Are the beauty products I’m using safe? Even all-natural products can contain ingredients that are off-limits during pregnancy, so the easiest way to get the a-OK on all your beauty goods is to bring them with you to the appointment and let your provider read the labels. She can make alternate recommendations for products that are now on the no-no list.
8. What prenatal vitamin do you recommend? Your care provider might write a prescription for a prenatal vitamin, or she might suggest an over-the-counter (OTC) variety. Although all prenatals offer a dose of key vitamins and nutrients, your individual needs might spark a specific recommendation from your midwife or OB. If you’ve already started taking prenatals but are having trouble keeping them down, your practitioner can recommend helpful solutions, like a pill that is smaller in size, a gummy or liquid version, or even changing the time of day you take it.
9. Can I continue to take my prescription medications? Again, bring the bottles with you because it’s easiest for your provider to give a definitive “yes” or “no” if she can see exactly what you’re working with. Some medications will be approved, but many others won’t. However, your provider should be able to help you come up with some viable alternatives to address your needs.
10. Are over-the-counter medications safe? In what dosages? It seems unfair that pregnancy, a time with ailments aplenty, is also a time in which many of your go-to remedies are off the table. When nonmedicated methods (saline drops and a humidifier for a stuffy nose, rest and ice for a headache) aren’t working, rest assured you don’t have to suffer. There are approved OTC options out there that can provide relief, and your midwife or OB can fill you in on what they are.
11. Are there any symptoms I should keep an eye out for? Covering this topic up front not only lets you know when to worry, but also when not to worry (which can free up your time to agonize over more exciting things, like baby names!). Certain nuisances, such as mild cramping and spotting, might cause you to panic but are generally not a big deal. However, not all pregnancies are created equal, so you need to know if there are any specifics to your situation that you should be aware of.
12. Does my medical history show any red flags for complications? You should discuss medical concerns as well as mental health factors. If you have any indicators that increase your odds of experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, for example, it’s wise to bring it up ahead of time, so your provider can more closely monitor your well-being after delivery.
13. What screenings and vaccinations do you recommend? Many practitioners will recommend that you receive a flu (influenza) and Tdap (tetanus; diphtheria; pertussis, aka whooping cough) vaccine during your pregnancy. Vaccines are always a hot topic, so it’s good to have a conversation before the needle is out about why they are recommended and how they might be beneficial for you and your baby.
14. What’s the best way to reach you if I have questions after office hours? Caregivers understand that your questions won’t always present themselves between 9 and 5, so if you have a true concern, don’t hesitate to reach out. Once you’ve nailed down the right way to get in touch, save the number in your phone (there’s a chance it’ll be the same number you use during office hours), so it’s ready to go if you need it.
Spend a little time in the days leading up to your first appointment thinking about whether there are any other questions you have. “Be sure to write down … any specific questions that are worrisome to you and have them addressed,” suggests Hlavacek. “This will not only assuage your personal concerns but also begin to create a meaningful and trusted bond with your health care provider.”
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