No matter how many times you’ve saddled up to your OB-GYN’s exam table for a routine visit, your first prenatal appointment can make you feel like an anxious, inexperienced newbie. Typically scheduled about eight weeks after your last missed period, this important visit will cover a lot of ground, setting you up with the knowledge you need to navigate the rest of your pregnancy.
I arrived to my own first prenatal appointment so full of questions about my new pregnancy that I forgot most of them. After the ultrasound, exam and a barrage of information from my OB, my husband and I looked at each other, wide-eyed and overwhelmed, when my doctor asked what questions we had.
Luckily, I learned to take notes for future appointments. And after more than a dozen doctor’s visits over the next few months, we ended up with plenty of time to have every one of our concerns addressed.
Claire Hoverman, MD at the OB-GYN Group of Austin in Austin, Texas, advises patients not to worry too much about the first visit. “We do a lot of education and counseling at the first prenatal visit, so don’t feel like you have to ask every question,” she tells SheKnows. “The whole benefit of having multiple visits for prenatal care is to make sure you get all your questions answered by the time the baby comes.”
That said, you need to know some details as early as possible, so take note of these basic questions that every woman should ask at her first prenatal appointment.
What activities are safe during pregnancy and what should I avoid?
Dr. Hoverman recommends discussing your current exercise habits with your doctor to make sure they’re safe during pregnancy. Low-impact exercise is generally recommended for pregnant women, with benefits including improved sleep, reduced stress and the ability to bounce back more quickly after giving birth. However, certain exercises may now be considered unsafe, including activities that involve bouncing, lifting heavy weights, or anything that may pose a risk of abdominal injury. Certain yoga poses are off-limits, too, such as deep twists and backbends.
How should I adjust my diet during pregnancy?
You’ll want clear answers on caffeine and alcohol consumption as well as foods you should avoid. The American Pregnancy Association lists deli meat, undercooked meat, high-mercury fish, raw shellfish, soft cheeses, and unwashed vegetables among foods you should avoid during pregnancy. Ask your doctor if you have any questions.
Dr. Diana Ramos, MD and chair at the Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, also suggests asking about weight goals. “If too much weight is gained, you increase your chances of complications in pregnancy such as diabetes, high blood pressure and increased risk for a C-section,” she tells SheKnows.
What medications and supplements are safe to take during pregnancy?
Come to your appointment prepared with a list of all medications you’re currently taking, as well as those you take when you’re sick or dealing with pain. Your doctor can tell you what’s safe and what to avoid when it comes to medications and supplements.
Some common over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen are considered unsafe for pregnant women, and some experts also recommend avoiding herbs and natural supplements — you’ll want to check all of these with your doctor. Also make sure you’re taking an acceptable prenatal vitamin with the right amount of folic acid. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to bring your prenatals to the appointment so your doctor can take a look at the ingredients.
What are some warning signs I should be aware of?
Miscarriage is a risk in early pregnancy, and it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of this and other potential complications. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests looking out for symptoms like bleeding and cramping. Talk to your doctor about recognizing the difference between normal and abnormal symptoms, and have a clear game plan in place if you do have concerns.
Put your pregnant mind at ease by talking to your doctor about what you can expect in the coming weeks and months. What will happen at future appointments in terms of testing and exams? What decisions do you need to be prepared to make at what point in your pregnancy? What — if any — adjustments do you need to make to your travel plans? What prenatal classes should you sign up for and how should you go about doing that?
Above all, take your time and don’t hold back any questions you have at your first prenatal appointment — or any subsequent doctor’s visit. “Any and all questions are valid and worth an answer, so don’t hesitate to ask something if it’s on your mind,” Dr. Hoverman says. “That’s one of the many reasons why we are here to support you.”
This post is sponsored by Nature Made Prenatals.