If you recently got a positive pregnancy test, you might be wondering how often do you go to the doctor when pregnant?
Especially 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. The important thing to keep in mind is that regular prenatal care is crucial for the health and development of your baby.
When you think you are pregnant, it is a good idea to schedule your first prenatal visit with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to get the best medical care for you and your baby.
Assuming that you have a healthy pregnancy, your prenatal visits will follow a fairly predictable routine.
That being said, not all doctors and midwives follow this schedule exactly. Your healthcare provider will tell you what to expect for how often you go to the doctor during your pregnancy at your first visit.
If you’re not sure if you’re pregnant yet, or think you might be but haven’t been able to confirm, you should read my article on how long after implantation you can take a home pregnancy test, or how soon a doctor can tell if you’re pregnant to get the fastest results.
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Schedule for Prenatal Appointments
How often you go to the doctor when pregnant depends on how many weeks gestation your unborn baby is.
Here is a general outline for uncomplicated pregnancies based on weeks of pregnancy:
- 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
Again, this is assuming you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.
Even if you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, you might find that you need to go to the doctor more often as you tackle the normal ailments of pregnancy like aches and pains, morning sickness, mental health, hormonal changes, and more.
Many doctor’s offices have a nurse line to answer your questions during pregnancy and will give you guidance on whether you should go in to be seen by a physician.
Keep in mind, at any point during your pregnancy–no matter what the “schedule” says–if something doesn’t feel right, you should see your doctor immediately.
Sample Schedule For Prenatal Appointents
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.)
*A high-risk pregnancy is a term used for any pregnancy where the mom or baby is at higher risk for pregnancy complications.
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:
These are routine tests to check your urine for signs of infection. On your first visit, you will also give a urine sample for a pregnancy test.
They will check your height, weight, blood pressure, and check for swelling.
They will go over all of the medications (prescription and over-the-counter) that you are currently taking.
Family History And Demographics
They will go over your family history of relevant health conditions, go through your demographics (such as your address, health insurance, place of employment, etc.), whether you smoke, drink, or use illegal substances, etc.
Listen To The Baby’s Heartbeat
Starting between 10-12 weeks your provider will use a machine that detects sound waves called a Fetal Doppler to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
Even at 12 weeks, it is sometimes too early to hear the heartbeat, so some providers will wait until 14 to start this.
Some practices have portable ultrasound machines that are used at every appointment to quickly check on the baby.
This is not the norm.
Most ultrasounds are done at a separate office at 8, 13, 20, and 36 weeks. You might hear these ultrasounds called the 8-weeks dating scan, 13-weeks Nuchal Translucency scan, 20-weeks anatomy scan, and 36-weeks growth scan.
Ask You Questions
They will ask if you have had any bleeding or spotting. They might also ask whether you have had any swelling or pain.
Allow You To Ask Questions
Your doctor should leave a few minutes at the end of each appointment to address your questions. If they don’t, they are probably not the right provider for you!
Always make sure (especially in the early weeks when you go a month between appointments) to write down questions that you come up with along the way. That way you can make sure everything gets answered at the next visit.
First Trimester Appointments
First Prenatal Appointment
Your first visit might be at the office, or it might be an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy.
Some providers have you come in as early as 6 weeks, and others might have you wait as long as 12 weeks.
Your provider might also change their schedule from one pregnancy to the next! With my first, I had an ultrasound at 8 weeks to confirm the pregnancy but wasn’t seen by a doctor until 12 weeks. With my second (at the same practice) I was seen right away at 6 weeks and then had my ultrasound after that at 8 weeks!
If your provider doesn’t see you until the end of your first trimester, but you are concerned about something, you need to call and make an appointment to go in sooner.
At your first prenatal appointment, your provider will do all of the routine tests that I mentioned above.
They will also:
- 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.
- Offer additional blood tests. These are screening tests for your baby. These tests can screen for various risk factors like birth defects, Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, and more.
These tests are completely optional for you to choose whether you want to have them done or not. If you’re not sure, your doctor can walk you through the pros and cons of having them done.
- 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.
Before you leave they will:
- 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 additional screening for genetic abnormalities called a Nuchal Translucency Screening (NT Test).
It is a specialized ultrasound done by an MFM (doctor specializing in maternal-fetal medicine). It is sometimes referred to as the 13-week ultrasound.
This test measures the thickness of the space behind the neck and can be an indicator of chromosomal abnormalities (like Down Syndrome).
This prenatal appointment is completely optional.
How Soon Can A Doctor Tell If You’re Pregnant: The Early In-Office Blood And Urine Pregnancy Tests You Can Take
Second Trimester Appointments
You will go to the doctor approximately 3 times in your second trimester.
During these appointments, your doctor will continue with the routine tests as mentioned above.
They will also 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.
If you need additional blood work or lab tests, they will be done during these next few appointments.
Anatomy Scan (20 Week Ultrasound)
A highlight of the second trimester is the 20-week ultrasound, also called an anatomy scan.
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.
It is at this appointment that they will likely be able to tell you the sex of the baby if you want to find out.
At this point, you are halfway through your pregnancy! If you want to know more about what’s going on with you and your baby during this developmental stage, I’ll walk you through the major milestones of the halfway point in your pregnancy here.
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.
If you want more specifics of what to expect in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, you can read my more in-depth guide here.
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).
Group B Strep
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.