Tips for Your First Trimester

OK, now that you've calmed down some from the initial excitement, wiped out the pregnancy shelf at your local bookstore, and made a down payment on a new maternity wardrobe, it's time to focus on the most important thing here (and no, it's not the wallpaper pattern for the nursery): your health and the baby's health. Your first assignment: Pick up the phone and call your doctor, nurse practitioner, or midwife—whomever you plan to see throughout your pregnancy and delivery—and make an appointment. It's time to begin prenatal care.

Studies find that babies of mothers who don't get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than babies born to mothers who do get care. Need any better reason?

The First Visit and Beyond

In a normal pregnancy, you will see your health care professional every month until about the sixth month; then every two weeks during the seventh and eighth months, and then weekly until labor.

During the first visit, your health care professional will take a full health history, including a history of any previous pregnancies. You will also receive a full physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test in most cases, and will be weighed and measured and have your blood pressure taken. Your health care provider should also test for any sexually transmitted infections. You will get a due date, officially called the "estimated date of delivery," typically 266 days from the first day of your last period if you have regular menstrual cycles. Otherwise it is customary to assign the due date based on ultrasound.

During every future visit, you will be weighed, have your belly measured and blood pressure taken, have your urine tested for protein or sugar (signs of potential complications), and, most exciting, hear your baby's heart beat.

Prenatal Tests