What are the Necessary Prenatal Appointments?

C. K. Lanz

Necessary prenatal appointments are typically grouped according to each trimester of a woman’s pregnancy. The initial visit during the first trimester is usually the longest, and subsequent appointments are scheduled every four to six weeks through the second trimester. Second trimester appointments commonly involve measuring the baby’s growth, routine lab exams, and prenatal testing. By the third semester, checkups are scheduled approximately every two weeks through week 36 and every week thereafter until delivery.

Most prenatal visits will include a pelvic exam.
Most prenatal visits will include a pelvic exam.

As soon as a woman believes that she is pregnant, she should schedule her first prenatal visit. This initial visit will be long because the care provider will want to discuss the mother’s medical history, lifestyle issues, and the due date. The mother will also undergo a complete physical exam and labs. Typical labs include screening tests for fetal abnormalities; diseases like syphilis, HIV, and diabetes; and a urine sample.

Urine samples are typically taken during prenatal visits.
Urine samples are typically taken during prenatal visits.

After the initial visit, prenatal appointments will be scheduled every four to six weeks through the second trimester. At each subsequent first trimester visit, the doctor will check the mother’s weight and blood pressure and administer an ultrasound. The baby’s heartbeat is usually detectable via ultrasound by the end of the first trimester.

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During the first and second trimesters, prenatal appointments will be scheduled every four to six weeks.
During the first and second trimesters, prenatal appointments will be scheduled every four to six weeks.

Second trimester prenatal appointments often involve measuring the baby’s growth and routine lab tests. In addition to checking the baby’s growth, the care provider may also ask about fetal movements like kicks and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Lab tests include urine samples and blood tests for gestational diabetes or low iron levels. Mothers can also request prenatal testing for disorders like Down syndrome. If the results of any of these exams are worrisome, an amniocentesis may be performed at this stage.

It is recommended that women see their doctors or a midwife regularly during pregnancy.
It is recommended that women see their doctors or a midwife regularly during pregnancy.

During the third semester, prenatal appointments are scheduled every two weeks until week 36, when the visits will be weekly until birth. Ultrasound testing will continue throughout the third trimester as the care provider prepares the mother for delivery. A screening for group B streptococcus is typically performed during this stage of pregnancy. Pelvic exams may also be necessary to check the baby’s position and track any cervical changes.

A prenatal ultrasound.
A prenatal ultrasound.

Since the baby’s due date is an educated guess, it is possible that a mother can deliver a week or two prior or past her day. Prenatal appointments will continue in such cases until delivery. The care provider will continue checking the mother’s cervix for changes and keep an eye on the baby’s progress via ultrasound testing.

Prenatal appointments can vary depending on a specific mother’s needs. A mother who is at higher risk for complications may have to visit her doctor or midwife more frequently. The schedule of appointments will ultimately be determined by the mother and her physician or midwife.

Necessary prenatal appointments can often differ depending on an expectant mother’s needs.
Necessary prenatal appointments can often differ depending on an expectant mother’s needs.

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