April 16, 2024

Early and continuous prenatal care can set you up for a supportive partnership with your health care provider throughout your pregnancy. Learn what to expect at your appointments.

It’s important to seek prenatal care as soon as you think you may be pregnant, and then continue to attend your prenatal visits throughout your pregnancy. Whether you have been planning to become pregnant and have adopted good health habits in advance — or you feel like you have some catching up to do — your health care provider will help you learn how to take care of your health.

“You are not in this alone,” said Marylou Smith, a certified nurse midwife with Vanderbilt Women’s Health. “With consistent prenatal care, you are building a team that includes, you, your baby, your health care provider and your main support people.”

What to expect at your prenatal care appointments

Prenatal appointments are like stopping points along your pregnancy journey where you get helpful advice and care from a knowledgeable guide who has been down the road with other families many times before, Smith said.

“At each visit, your health care provider will guide you through your pregnancy by answering questions and monitoring your progress,” Smith said. “There will also be various tests to make sure you’re on track. They will listen to your concerns, provide solutions and watch out for potential issues before they have a chance to become into problems. A healthy baby and pregnancy start with quality prenatal care.”

Here are a few things your health care provider will do at your prenatal visits:

  • Evaluate the health of your pregnancy. At your first prenatal visit, your provider will calculate a “due date” that gives an estimate of the delivery of your baby. (Many women give birth between 38 and 41 weeks of pregnancy. Your due date is determined by counting 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period.)
  • Check the progress of your pregnancy. This includes your baby’s growth, fetal heart rate, changes in your weight and blood pressure, and your overall health and comfort.
  • Check lab work through blood and urine. This will change depending on the trimester, but will include checking iron, sugar and protein levels that could indicate anemia, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
  • Discuss normal changes that happen during pregnancy. Some changes and discomforts are completely normal, while some may point to complications. Your provider will address these issues and recommend appropriate lifestyle changes or further screening.
  • Ensure you’re following healthy habits. These include avoiding smoking and alcohol; taking folic acid and vitamin supplements; avoiding exposure to harmful substances, like pesticides and radiation; getting regular exercise; following a healthy, balanced diet; and staying hydrated.
  • Answer your questions. (All of them.) Your provider wants to help you feel as prepared as possible for the labor and delivery of your baby.

Expert care for you and your baby

Each pregnancy and delivery is unique and yours should be too. Learn more about how Vanderbilt Health’s obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine teams bring together nationally ranked expertise and personalized care from your first prenatal visit to delivery and beyond.

To learn more, call 615-343-5700 or schedule an appointment online.

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