Congratulations, you’re pregnant! You are probably feeling a lot of different things right now– excitement, nervousness, uncertainty, joy, disbelief and just about every other emotion under the sun. When you go to your first appointment (usually at 8 to 10 weeks) you can calm a few of those emotions by having a plan and a list of questions to ask your doctor. You may have your own questions ready, but also consider these nine questions to ask at your first prenatal appointment:
1. What lifestyle changes do I need to make immediately?
Once you learn you are pregnant, you’ll need to change some things about your lifestyle right away. Depending on your habits pre-pregnancy, these changes may seem drastic or they might not be super noticeable. Either way, you will not have a problem making these changes for the good of your child (and your own health while carrying the child, which is top priority).
Here are some things to discuss at the beginning of the pregnancy to avoid possible negative effects:
- Diet: Obviously, alcohol should be cut out immediately. Caffeine should be limited and some other foods should be eliminated (usually deli meat, unpasteurized cheese, certain fish). Your doctor will give you a written list of what to avoid and explain why you should do so. They can also give guidance on what kind of foods and drinks to add or increase in your diet.
- Medication: This is so important because many medications are not safe for use during pregnancy. Both over the counter medications and prescriptions should be looked at as soon as you know you’re pregnant. Working with your doctor, you can decide what is safe to keep taking and at what dosages. And if you need to come off of a certain important medication, they can help you come up with a plan to discontinue use as some are dangerous to discontinue cold turkey. When possible, they may be able to prescribe an alternative.
- Sleep habits: If you aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, consider changing your sleep habits. Your body will be going through a lot of changes in the coming months, so adequate rest is important. You’ll also want to be well rested before those sleepless newborn nights start.
- Work environment: Ask if your occupation or work environment might pose any risks. Make sure you aren’t exposed to chemicals or toxins that could be harmful. Work with your care team as well as a safety manager at your job.
- Beauty products: If you’re worried about certain beauty products being safe for your baby during pregnancy, check with your doctor. A lot of women are concerned about hair dye, nail polish or treatments (especially chemicals present in some nail salons), sunless tanning lotions, retinols, serums, and essential oils. Your doctor can help steer you in the right direction for making safe choices where these products are concerned. You can also ask about massages or other spa treatments.
2. What things am I at risk for given my personal history?
This is a very important question to ask from the very beginning of your pregnancy. Pregnancy is not an illness by any means, and the human body is built for it. However, pregnancy can still put a lot of stress on your body, especially if you already have a condition that can be worsened.
Chances are if you continue care with your regular OB/GYN your doctor will know most of your medical history. But if you’re using a new doctor due to your pregnancy or for any other reason, you need to be sure they know everything. And it never hurts for a current doctor to go back over and re-check history.
If you have specific concerns your doctor does not address, be sure to speak up. Some common conditions that are important to note include, but aren’t limited to: depression, seizures, high blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid issues. Any problems with anesthesia, antibiotics, medication, or surgeries should also be brought to your doctor’s attention.
3. What will the frequency of my appointment be?
In order to have an idea of the big picture of your pregnancy care, talk to your doctor about the base number of prenatal appointments you can expect. They’ll want to schedule the appointments regularly and the frequency will increase the further along you get in your pregnancy. The actual number will depend on your individual needs but in general you can expect to see the doctor more near the due date.
4. What vitamins do I need to take?
If you were actively trying to conceive, then you might have been taking a prenatal vitamin before you got pregnant. But if you got pregnant unexpectedly, or weren’t on a prenatal vitamin, your doctor will recommend you start taking one. He or she will give you guidance on what to look for in a vitamin if they do not prescribe one or recommend a specific brand.
5. What exercise can/should I be doing?
Staying active during pregnancy is important. If you are fit while you’re pregnant, recovery could be easier depending on how labor goes. Exercise and general fitness can also help you feel better both mentally and physically throughout the pregnancy. Many exercise regimens, excluding extreme examples, are safe as long as you feel physically comfortable. However, you should follow your doctor’s instructions on what kind of exercise is appropriate.
6. How much weight should I gain?
The amount of weight you should gain will depend on how much you weighed before you were pregnant. Your doctor can give you a more precise number or range but generally, women with healthy pre-pregnancy weights should gain 25-30 pounds. Women who are underweight should gain about 40 pounds and overweight women should gain 11 to 20 pounds. These weights can change based on your unique circumstances.
7. What about prenatal testing?
During your pregnancy, certain prenatal screenings are required whereas others may be optional. You can expect to have blood work done in the first and second trimester. You can also expect a test to determine whether or not you have gestational diabetes. Genetic testing is also available. What kind of genetic testing you get or if you decide to get it, is a personal decision and you should talk to your doctor about the risks and what certain results might mean, including false positives.
8. What is normal and what should I call you about? And when should I call 911 or go directly to the hospital?
Speak with your doctor about what is normal or common or when you need to call about problems. Make sure you’re clear on what is “normal” for your stage of pregnancy as you go along. But always err on the side of caution. Also ask the best way to contact your doctor with ask questions (email, phone, online patient portal) and who you should call in certain situations.
You should also know who to call in case of a medical emergency and where you should go. This might change based on how far along in your pregnancy you are.
9. What should I start considering to prepare my birth plan?
It might seem premature to start thinking about your delivery since you’re just at the beginning of your pregnancy, but in reality, the sooner you start talking with your doctor about your options and preferences, the more comfortable you’ll feel when the day gets closer. Some things to discuss with your doctor regarding a birth plan include:
- Birth location: You probably already know which hospital your OB/GYN is affiliated with, but this is still a topic worth discussing. Some people prefer to deliver at birthing centers or at home. If you want to go this route, the sooner your doctor knows, the better so everyone is on the same page.
- Care philosophy: It’s important to know your provider’s views on vaginal labor, C-sections, induced labor, epidurals, delivering without pain medication, etc.
- Who will actually deliver the baby? Will it be the doctor you see for your regular appointments or someone else? As mentioned above, if you’re planning on delivery outside of a hospital, your doctor might not be the one delivering the baby, so midwives or doulas may need to be part of the discussion.
At Green Valley OB/GYN we have extensive experience in managing both high-risk and low-risk pregnancies. And when you’re at the beginning of your pregnancy we know you will have a lot of questions and concerns. Call (336) 378-1110 to make an appointment at our Greensboro office. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we have an on-call physician available 24/7 in case of emergencies.