If you have a healthy pregnancy, your prenatal visits follow a predictable routine, which I’ll outline below. Getting regular prenatal care is crucial for the health and development of your baby. If you think you might be pregnant, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If this is your first pregnancy, it can be overwhelming to hear about all of the appointments and tests that you are going to have. Learning about the different types of doctor’s appointments can help ease your fears.
Jump Ahead To:
Schedule for Prenatal Appointments
Not all doctors and midwives follow this schedule exactly. Your healthcare provider will tell you at your first visit what to expect and how often you go to the doctor during your pregnancy.
Assuming you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, here is a general outline for uncomplicated pregnancies based on weeks of gestation:
- Weeks 4-28: Once a month
- Weeks 28-36: Every other week
- Weeks 36-40: Every week
- Weeks 40+: Will be determined by your healthcare provider
Sample Schedule For Prenatal Appointments
Medical Reasons You Might Go To The Doctor More Often When Pregnant
There are endless reasons why you might need to go to the doctor more often when pregnant, but some of them are if:
- You are AMA (advanced maternal age): Over 35
- You have high blood pressure
- Your pregnancy is considered high-risk
- You have a history of miscarriage or stillbirth
- You have gestational diabetes
- You develop other pregnancy complications like Preeclampsia or Polyhydramnios.
- You are having multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
What To Expect At All Of Your Prenatal Appointments
Although there are tests that are specific to certain trimesters or prenatal appointments, there are a few things that will remain consistent throughout your prenatal visits:
Pro Tip: ✏️Make a note on your phone with questions that come up between appointments.
Ultrasounds are usually scheduled at:
- 8 Weeks: The dating scan.
- 13 Weeks: The Nuchal Translucency scan.
- 20 Weeks: The anatomy scan.
- 36 Weeks: The growth scan.
If your OB suspects any problems, they will schedule additional ultrasounds to check on the baby.
Appointments by Trimester
Your first appointment may be in the office with a doctor, or an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. It could be as early as six weeks, or as late as 12.
At this appointment they will:
- Estimate your due date based on your last period (called your EDD).
- Do a PAP test if you are due for one.
- Go over your medical history including previous pregnancies and births, surgeries, allergies, and other health problems you have had including miscarriage and stillbirth.
- Order blood work to determine your blood type, your RH factor, your iron, and red blood cell counts, your immunity to certain viruses (like chickenpox and rubella), screen you for STDs and other illnesses, and screen for illegal substance use.
- Prescribe your prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are critical for ensuring your baby is getting all of the nutrients that they need (like folic acid). Depending on your insurance, it may be more cost effective to buy your prenatal vitamins over the counter. If you choose to do this, let your provider know which ones you are taking.
- Go over the schedule for your prenatal appointments so you know what to expect in the coming weeks.
- Schedule your first ultrasound. This is usually a transvaginal ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy, confirm the due date, and check the baby’s heartbeat.
- Schedule the remainder of your first trimester visits.
Other First Trimester Appointments
Depending on when your first appointment is, you may or may not have additional first-trimester doctor’s appointments.
Between 11 and 13 weeks gestation, you are offered an optional additional screening for genetic abnormalities called a Nuchal Translucency Screening (NT Test).
Second Trimester Appointments
You will go to the doctor approximately 3 times in your second trimester.
Your doctor will start measuring your fundal height. This is the length of the uterus from the very bottom to the top. Your doctor can keep track of the baby’s growth by these measurements.
A highlight of the second trimester is the 20-week ultrasound, also called an anatomy scan. This is when you can find out the sex of the baby!
It also means you’re halfway through your pregnancy 🥳.
This is an in-depth ultrasound that takes dozens of measurements of your baby including the head size and femur length. They also check the heart rate, development of major organs (like the heart, brain, kidneys, and lungs). Finally, they check for blood flow from the umbilical cord.
Toward the end of the second trimester (between 24-28 weeks), your provider will order a glucose screening test. This checks for gestational diabetes GD (also known as pregnancy diabetes).
This is called a 1-hour glucose test. You drink a very sugary (very unpleasant) drink, wait an hour, and have your blood drawn to see how your body is metabolizing the sugar.
If you pass the test, no further screening is necessary.
If you fail the test, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have GD, but they will do a repeat test called the 3-hour glucose test.
During the second test, you will follow the same process, but your blood will be drawn at different points throughout the 3 hours. Based on the results of the 3-hour test, your doctor will let you know if you have gestational diabetes or not.
Depending on when flu season is during your pregnancy, you will be encouraged to get the flu shot. The flu shot can be given at any point during pregnancy.
Third Trimester Appointments
Your third trimester is where your prenatal appointments really pick up. You will be seen between 7 and 9 times depending on how the weeks fall and if you go past your due date.
The majority of these appointments will be non-eventful and will just do the routine procedures that you have been having all along (urine test, weight, blood pressure, baby’s heartbeat, fundal measurement).
There are a few tests and discussions that you will have with your provider over the last three months.
You will discuss your birth plan with your provider. Unless you are seeing a midwife, you will likely be giving birth in a hospital.
You can ask your doctor questions about hospital policies (like having family members coming). Your hospital probably has hospital tours for expecting mothers and birthing classes that you can sign up for as well.
If you are giving birth at a birthing center or planning a home birth, you can put the details in place as well as express your wishes, say, for a water birth.
Usually, between 29-34 weeks you will be offered the Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis).
Your provider will do a vaginal swab for Group B Streptococcus.
Group B Streptococcus is a fairly common bacteria that can develop during pregnancy but can be very serious or life-threatening to a newborn if not treated during labor.
If you are positive, your doctor will give you special instructions for when to come to the hospital during labor in order to receive the necessary antibiotics before giving birth.
Your doctor may want to do pelvic exams starting around 37 weeks to check on the condition of your cervix. They will measure how dilated and effaced you are.
Unless there is a medical reason why you need to be checked, pelvic exams are optional.
After 40 Weeks Appointments
Most practices want to induce labor between 41 and 42 weeks if it does not occur spontaneously before then.
At your 40 week appointment (if you make it that far), your doctor will discuss your options for induction. They might also schedule a few tests to monitor the baby until delivery like an NST (nonstress test) or additional ultrasound.