When should I go for my first Antenatal Visit?

If you are preparing to have a baby, you may be excited when the pregnancy test reads positive. The next step is to see a doctor, to ensure the pregnancy is within the womb and healthy. When is the best time for this?

An Early Start

Ideally, couples who are interested in having children should visit their obstetrician and gynaecologist (O&G)early for a pre-conception check-up. They should find a doctor whom they are comfortable with and can trust since giving birth to a child is a journey, and a doctorwith whom they have a good rapport is vital for that journey to be pleasant. As healthy mothers mean healthy babies, a doctor will be able to advise them on various matters such as weight management, optimal nutrition and a suitable timeline for the pregnancy, as well as manage any pre-existing conditions that might affect it.

Once pregnancy is confirmed by a urine pregnancy test, it is advisable for women to wait a week or two after a missed period to see their O&G, as before this stage, it is unlikely that the pregnancy will be visible on an ultrasound scan.

What Happens?

Your first antenatal visit allows your doctor to check that both you and your pregnancy are healthy. It also provides the opportunity ofreducing the risk of complications by assessing your risk factors and planning the best way to manage the rest of your pregnancy to ensure you and your baby remain healthy throughout. Your doctor will carry out various examinations, including the measurement of your height, weight and blood pressure, andhave a chat with you to learn about your health, family history and obstetric history.An ultrasound scan will also be performed, toensure that your baby is growing well.

If everything is fine, your next check-up will be scheduled two weeks after yourinitial antenatal visit. Subsequent visits can be spaced further apart, at monthly intervals for the first few months if the pregnancy is progressing normally, up until around the 30th week, after which visits should then be more frequent until thedelivery.

During these follow up visits, ultrasound scans will be performed to monitor the growth of the baby, its position, and measure the amniotic fluid levels and determine the location of the placenta.

Every pregnancy is different and one of the aims of regular antenatal visits is to pick up problems early so that they can be managed, and problems averted or minimised, such as growth restriction of the fetus, gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Each stage of pregnancy is also different and may require different tests such as Down Syndrome screening in the first trimester, a glucose tolerance test for diabetes in the second trimester, or a detailed scan for structural abnormalities of the baby at about 20 weeks.

A Journey of Trust

Trust and rapport are important in a patient-doctor relationship, particularly in relation to pregnancy and childbirth. After all,with the inclusion of follow up after delivery, this process extends over a period of almost a year in total. It is critical that you find a doctor you like and trust, to ensure a pleasant experience, and it is equally important to the doctor that a good rapport exists, as this will enable her to provide you with the best care possible.