Even though you’re pregnant and your body is already undergoing miraculous changes, your day-to-day life goes on. How will you need to change your lifestyle in order to make your pregnancy go as smoothly as possible? What things in your life don’t need to change, or need to be modified only slightly? You have a lot to consider: your job, the general level of stress in your life, what medications you take, whether you smoke or drink alcohol regularly, and what to do about routine things like going to the dentist or hairdresser. If you’re like most normally healthy women, you’ll probably find that for the most part, your life can go on largely as usual.
All the issues we mention are subjects for discussion with your gynaecologist. If you consider from the beginning how your daily habits and health practices interact with your pregnancy, you’re likely to have an easier time getting used to your new state of being. The earlier you get started on the right diet, exercise, and overall health program, the better.
Planning Prenatal Visits
Your positive pregnancy test marks a new beginning. The time has come to start thinking about what lies ahead. After you decide who your gynaecologist will be, give the office a call to find out how to proceed. Some practices want you to come in for a visit with the office nurse to give a medical history and confirm your good news with either a blood or urine test, whereas others schedule a first visit with the practitioner. How soon your first visit will be scheduled depends in part on your past or current history. If you didn’t have a preconception beforehand, and you haven’t been on prenatal vitamins or other vitamins containing folic acid, let the office know. A prescription for prenatal vitamins can be called in so you can start taking them even before your first prenatal visit. All over-the-counter adult multi- and prenatal vitamins should have the correct dose of folic acid so the typical patient doesn’t need a prescription for them, but ask the pharmacist if you’re not sure.
Some things are consistent from trimester to trimester — like checking your blood pressure, urine, and the baby’s heartbeat. If you develop problems during pregnancy or if your pregnancy is considered “high risk”, your practitioner may suggest that you come in more frequently.
Prenatal visits vary a bit according to each woman’s personal needs and each practitioner’s style. Some women need particular laboratory tests or physical examinations. However, the following procedures are standard during your prenatal visits:
- A nurse checks your weight and blood pressure.
- You give a urine sample (usually an easy job for most pregnant women). Your gynaecologist checks for the presence of protein or glucose, which may be a sign of preeclampsia or diabetes. urine tests also enable your doctor to look for any indications of a urinary tract infection.
- Starting sometime after 14 to 16 weeks, a nurse or doctor measures your fundal height. The gynaecologist uses either a tape measure or her hands to measure your uterus. This gives her a rough idea of how the baby is growing and whether you have an adequate amount of amniotic fluid.
- A nurse or doctor listens for and counts the baby’s heartbeat. Typically, the heartbeat ranges between 120 and 160 beats per minute. Most offices use an electronic Doppler device to check the baby’s heartbeat. With this method, the baby’s heartbeat sounds sort of like horses galloping inside the womb.
In some practices, a medical assistant or nurse performs tasks such as checking your blood pressure; in other practices, a doctor may perform this task. No matter who performs the technical components of the prenatal visit, you should always have the opportunity to ask a gynaecologist questions before leaving the clinic.