Prenatal check-ups can seem really useless. You’re likely hot, tired and you REALLY don’t want to go wait at the office and then have what seems like an entirely useless office visit with your provider.
Hi, I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 Follow me for more positive pregnancy & labor tips! 😊 I believe that prenatal appointments are one of the MOST important things you can do for your baby (even though they can seem useless sometimes — and yes, having 3 kids of my own I totally understand that feeling).
One of the OTHER most important things is to get a prenatal class in. Did you know studies show that families that took a prenatal class have higher likelihood of breastfeeding, improved communication between childbearing women and their maternity care providers, decreased need for analgesic medication in labor, and increased satisfaction with birth
All of that is good news, because I came up with a SUPER easy way for you to get educated (way better than the boring hospital class I taught on Tuesdays at 6 pm). Come join me!
Ok, back to prenatal APPOINTMENTS, and things your doctor does at them that seem useless, but can be super important:
Important Things Your Provider Will Do At a Prenatal Appointment
As a note, these are not ALL the things that will be done at your appointment that are important — just the top five that happen at MOST appointments for MOST women.
Listen to the Heartbeat
Some doctors might use an ultrasound machine, but use will use a doppler (that checks for blood flow and makes a sound out of the movement) to check for a heartbeat.
Most often that heartbeat can be heard around 10 weeks (plus or minus a few weeks). It is a simple, easy way to check out baby is doing. They will likely listen for a bit to make sure it’s fluctuating and check how many beats per minute it is going.
Sidenote: You can’t know the gender of your baby by the heart rate, sorry!
It is a sure fire way to know that baby is alive and doing well in your belly. If they CAN’T find the heart rate, it is possible that baby is hiding and they will likely order or do a quick ultrasound.
A heartbeat check is the way that most stillborn babies are found.
Measure Your Fundus/Feel your Belly
Your funds is the top of your uterus. Your doctor will likely measure from the top of your pelvis to the top of your uterus to see how big the baby is measuring.
Once your baby bump is pretty pronounced they will likely feel your baby to check baby’s positioning and engagement in your pelvis.
This just catches some issues that they might want to follow-up with on ultrasound. Measuring with a tape measure, and a discerning provider is one of the best ways to know if baby is possibly big or has other issues.
It may seem really “old school” but providers know that our hands are great tools that can tell us a lot really cheap.
Your doctor will order routine labs and ultrasounds at your checkup. I have a few of those listed on my sister site’s pregnancy calendar post. These types of things include;
- STI screens
- Blood counts (CBC, blood type, etc)
- Genetic testing
- A drug screen if necessary
- An early ultrasound to check for dates
- A mid-pregnancy ultrasound to check for baby’s growth (and often gender if you wish)
- A mid pregnancy CBC (often to check for anemia)
- A glucose tolerance test to check for gestational diabetes
- A beta strep culture of the baby exit area.
Other doctors may see other labs necessary or it is their protocol to order other things.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what a test is for when they order it. For instance, I didn’t always do genetic testing because I didn’t think it was necessary.
Blood Pressure Check
Having your blood pressure check, especially as you head into the 3rd trimester can be REALLY important. Your blood pressure can be an indication of preeclampsia or gestational hypertension. Both of those can be really serious and may require treatment.
Keep in mind that OFTEN the first blood pressure check is high. If they find a high blood pressure initially, ask them to check again after you’ve settled into the exam room for a bit.
I know this can be troublesome for some pregnant people, but knowing your weight IS important.
One of the most important things is losing or quickly gaining weight in your third trimester can indicate issues with the baby’s growth or the amniotic fluid. It could also be a pan of brownies you ate, but weight is only worth the weight YOU give it, and it if it bothers you a lot, weigh in backwards so that at least your providers can monitor it. Ask them to only discuss it if they find that extra labs/tests are necessary.
Allow for Questions
Your provider should allow you a time to ask some questions. Personally, I liked having the questions I’d come up since the last visit written down (most often in your phone). That way you can be concise and not waste their time (or forget them) while also getting the education you need.
If they don’t stop on their own, be sure to stop them and get your questions answered. THAT is part of their visit too.
So, like I said — your provider may do/order different things, but these 6 things will happen at most appointments. They are really important reasons to take the time to be seen.
While your doctor should take the time to answer your questions, it really puts you ahead when you have taken a prenatal class. You’ll have more insightful questions about your own condition, and you’ll speak their language as they discuss your health with you. I think it’s really important, and I’ve decided one of the most open and educational (and fast) classes out there. Get you and your partner ready for this experience!
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.