It’s exciting to become a parent, but many individuals stress out even by the thought of getting pregnant. Your body, indeed, goes through many changes. Still, patients who receive an early diagnosis and proper care generally have a healthy pregnancy with no complications. Whether it is your first baby or you have been pregnant. Knowing common pregnancy symptoms, the tests you may have to undergo, and what to expect from your routine check-ups is essential to understanding before getting pregnant. Check out these five things to consider prior to getting pregnant.
1. Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy
Quite often, before getting pregnant, some want to know what symptoms they may experience.
Ultimately, you must perform a pregnancy test to determine if you are pregnant. But, even before that, some signs and symptoms start alerting you that you might be pregnant.
Common symptoms that show up early in pregnancy can include the following:
- Missed Period
- Swollen, Tender Breasts
- Increased Urination
- Nausea with/without Vomiting
There are some less obvious signs and symptoms of pregnancy generally experienced include:
- Light Spotting
- Food Aversions
- Nasal Congestion
Even though all these symptoms point to pregnancy, many aren’t uniquely associated with pregnancy. Some of them also indicate sickness or the start of a period. Furthermore, many don’t experience any of the symptoms listed above prior to confirmation or during pregnancy.
Still, however, if your period is missed and you notice some of the pregnancy symptoms mentioned above, it is advised that you take a pregnancy test at home or consult with your healthcare provider.
2. The First appointment
Your first appointment may be with your healthcare provider or a nurse only. It will probably be the longest you’ll have through the next 40 weeks of your pregnancy. It will be a comprehensive visit with lots of information-gathering and some tests to be performed.
Let’s run you through what you should expect at the first prenatal appointment:
- A General Check-up: Your general health examination includes checking your lungs, heart, abdomen, and breasts. A baseline blood pressure reading, check for swelling and varicose veins, perform a pelvic exam, and assessment of your uterus size via a transvaginal ultrasound.
- Urine Test to Confirm Pregnancy: Though you may have a home pregnancy test with a positive result, expect your healthcare provider to do a urine test to confirm your pregnancy.
- Blood Test: A blood test may be performed to check your hCG levels.
There are plenty of other tests that you may expect during your first appointment.
These may include:
- Urine Test (for glucose, protein, bacteria, and white blood cells)
- Bloodwork (Blood type, hemoglobin levels, etc.)
- Genetic Carrier Screening
- STD Tests
- Pap Smear
- Blood Sugar test
3. Number of Appointments
As an Obstetrical Nurse, I often encounter birth persons who tell me they simple do not have the time attend their appointments. Prior to getting pregnant, the time you’ll spend visiting your healthcare provider is something that is worth considering.
Typically, you can expect 10-15 visits during pregnancy. Most complication-free pregnancies follow the following schedule for appointment frequency:
- Once every month during Weeks 4-28
- Every other week during Weeks 28-36
- Every week from Week 36 until delivery
You can expect to see your provider more often if you have pre-existing or developed complications during your pregnancies. More frequent prenatal visits are typical for high-risk pregnancies as well.
This is generally for those who are:
- 35 years of age or older
- Obese, overweight, or underweight
- Suffering from certain health conditions before pregnancy, like cancer, diabetes, HIV, or high blood pressure
- Pregnant with more than one baby
4. Calculating Pregnancy Due Date
Due dates can have importance for many families. Matching up with a special day, week, months or even years. Understanding how to calculate your due date can assist determine to getting pregnant.
Want to find out when you are due? Most pregnancies take 40 weeks (consider 38 weeks since conception). That said, the simplest way of calculating the pregnancy due date would be to count 280 days, or 40 weeks, from the day your last period started.
You can also calculate your due date by subtracting three months from the first day of your last menstrual period and adding seven days to the result. The pregnancy due date calculation based on the last menstrual period tends to work for individuals with a regular menstruation cycle. However, it may not be the best option for those with an irregular menstrual cycle. So, for reliable results, it is always a good idea to use the date of conception if you remember when you conceived. Add 266 days to your conception date to get the estimated due date.
Remember that it’s normal for the delivery to happen a couple of weeks earlier or later than the estimated due date.
5. Trimesters of Pregnancy (how long each last)
A full-term, normal pregnancy is 40 weeks – generally between 37-42 weeks – divided into three trimesters of about three months or 12-14 weeks each. During each trimester, individuals experience specific physiological and hormonal changes. Let’s explore them in detail.
The first trimester starts from the first week of pregnancy and lasts until the twelfth week. Therefore, you may not appear pregnant during these first 12 weeks. Still, your body is undergoing enormous changes to accommodate the growing baby.
During the first trimester, your body experiences a significant change in hormone levels. As a result, your uterus starts supporting the growing fetus and the placenta, the blood supply is increased so that nutrients and oxygen are carried to the growing baby, and you also experience an increased heart rate.
The second trimester starts from week 13 and lasts until week 27. This is generally the most comfortable time during pregnancy for most individuals. This is when most of the symptoms from early pregnancy disappear gradually. You start feeling increased energy levels during the day and get a more relaxing sleep at night.
As the uterus grows, your abdomen expands, and anyone can tell you you’re pregnant. Therefore, you should wear proper maternity wear during this time and avoid wearing restrictive clothing.
Generally, by week 20, most women start feeling their baby’s movement in this trimester. Your baby can also begin to hear and recognize your voice when you’re going through the second trimester.
In this trimester, you may also have to undergo some screening tests. So, make sure that you discuss your and your family’s medical history and any genetic issues with your healthcare provider.
The last trimester of pregnancy starts from week 28 and lasts until the baby’s birth. This is when your visits to your healthcare provider become more frequent, and you need extra care. Your healthcare provider will keep a check on the following:
- Your blood pressure
- Heart rate of the fetus
- Protein leaking into your urine
- Your fundal height
- Any swelling on your legs and hands
- Baby’s position
This is when your healthcare provider may impose travel restrictions. You’re advised to stay close to your midwife or doctor to avoid problems should you go into labor earlier than expected.
Final thoughts on getting pregnant!
Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider (interview them)
When you first visit your healthcare provider, there are some common questions you should seek answers to. This little interview will help you decide if you need to look for another doctor or if you’re at the right place.
These questions include:
- How long have they been in practice?
- How many births have they attended?
- What is their C-section rate?
- How do they feel about minimal interventions during labor?
- Do they support home births (if you want to deliver at home)?
- How do they feel about same-sex couples (if that applies to your case)?
- What hospital will you deliver at?
- Do they accept your insurance?
- How much time do they allow for a visit?
- What are their after-hours policies?
- How do they feel about pain medication in labor?
- Do they perform VBACs, and what’s their VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) success rate?
- Do they have experience dealing with any high-risk pregnancies?
Pregnancies can be stressful, especially when it’s your first time and you have little knowledge about what will happen next. Before getting pregnant, educate yourself about each stage of your pregnancy, visit a credible practitioner, consult with them regularly, and follow their instructions to have an stress-free prenatal experience.
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**The information given is helpful, but it is not a substitute for your care provider. He or she will have specific information about you and will be able to help tailor your care for your personal circumstances. These are guidelines and the best care will sometimes mean doing things different than or in addition to what will be outlined today. Information is not being endorsed by any government or public entity. The views expressed are only those of the author**