Yay! You’re pregnant! Or, if you’re like me, you’re pretty sure you are but insist on taking a bajillion tests anyways “just to be safe.” And now that you’re (fairly) confident that you are indeed with child, you’ll need to make your first prenatal appointment! Yay? It can seem intimidating, especially if you already know that it’s going to be a high-risk pregnancy. Although hopping on the very reliable Interwebs in the name of “research” may seem like a good idea, it usually isn’t.
Funny thing about your first visit: the time between when you make the appointment and when it actually is, will seemingly not abide by the rules of time and space. I like to call this “The Waiting Vortex.” Logically you know your appointment is only two weeks away, which isn’t really that long. but somehow two weeks ends up feeling like three months. Approximately. Your vortex may vary.
All right, so the day has finally arrived for your first prenatal visit! You’re probably pretty stoked.
So here are 10 tips I wish I had been told before my first prenatal visit:
10. Take someone with you
This may seem like a no-brainer, but just having someone to go with you can ease a lot of your stress and help take your mind off things. They can also be your reinforcement, remind you of any questions or concerns you have, or (worst case scenario) be someone that will stand up for you.
9. Your Mother was Right
This one may seem silly, but the old, maternal adage “wear clean underwear, in case you get in an accident” is embarrassingly accurate. While everything from potential birth defects to morning sickness woes are occupying a large portion of your brain, what you wear to your first prenatal visit probably isn’t ranking high on your list of concerns. It wasn’t until I was regretting my tank-top decision in the freezing waiting room that I realized I didn’t shave my legs and I was wearing my “it’s laundry day” underwear. Just saying, you won’t find this on any cute pregnancy blog, but you will thank me when you’ve avoided having to explain your poor life choices to the ultrasound tech who is staring judgingly at your lower half.
8. Be a Nerd
Write down any and all questions you have prior to the visit and don’t be embarrassed to bring your notes with you. Heck, make a cute Lisa Frank binder if you want and who cares about any nurses that are jealous of your awesomely bedazzled Trapper Keeper! But seriously, write down every question you have, no matter how dumb you think it is.
7. Don’t Be Intimidated
I cannot stress this one enough. Throughout your whole pregnancy, you will have to make a lot of healthcare choices for both you and your baby. Don’t let the doctors/specialists/nurses make you feel rushed for a decision. Don’t assume that they know everything. You are your own advocate. It’s very easy to fall under their spell. You think, “Well, they’re the ones with the medical degrees. They must know best. I should just keep my concerns to myself. What do I know?” Answer: You know everything! Even prior to my pregnancy, I had to be persistent about getting the right healthcare. It took me years to even get my Lupus diagnosis. So if your body is telling you something is wrong, listen. Listen, and then don’t stop making your concerns known until you get your answers. The doctors are there for you. This is their job. Don’t let them make you feel bad for demanding the healthcare you and your baby deserve.
6. It’s Not Just Physical
Aside from the gurbly tummy brought on by nerves, you may already be experiencing some early pregnancy symptoms, too. Now, this may just be me, but I genuinely feel that we as high-risk women have a lot more on our plate mentally. So while morning sickness is a totally normal thing to have, the crippling anxiety that plagues you before getting the answers you so desperately desire at your appointment, is a whole other ball game. This is normal, though. You are under a tremendous amount of stress and it is impossible to think that your pregnancy will look like some Hollywood-version, free of worry, anxiety, and self doubt. If you feel that the emotional and mental side of things is already too much, bring it up at your first visit. You are not the first high-risk mom they’ve seen and certainly not the first to feel the mental strain of it all. There’s no shame in admitting you and your baby need support.
5. Medicine, Tests, and Pills, oh my!
You’ve probably already heard about prenatal vitamins, and if you aren’t already taking them, this will be something your doctor will prescribe for you at this visit. Something high-risk pregnancy women have to consider is whether or not their current medicine regimen will need to change. A friend of mine with Fibromyalgia was no longer able to take certain medicines, particularly ones that helped her manage her pain. Find out what alternatives there are and which of your current medicines fall into the “C” category (which are medicines that pregnant women can not take). On the flip side, they may be prescribing you new medicines to deal with any issues they think need to be controlled during the pregnancy. Again, if there is anything you are uncomfortable with, don’t let them pressure you into making a quick decision. Get a second opinion, do your research, and then proceed. In addition to researching what medicines you will feel comfortable taking, add prenatal tests to the list. There are some basic, non-invasive tests out there that are routinely done (blood tests from the mother, ultrasounds, etc). But there are some that you may not feel comfortable doing (amniocentesis, quad screen, etc), so feel free to ask your doctor what tests are absolutely necessary and what the pros/cons are. And get used to repeating yourself (and your list of medications/allergies/conditions) to every single member of the medical staff.
4. New Life = New Lifestyle?
You have a new little life growing inside you, so now you have to consider how your lifestyle will or won’t impact your baby. At your first prenatal visit, it’s a great idea to ask the doctor what your new reality is going to look like. If you’re a fitness nut, ask what level of exercise is safe for you and baby. If you’re a foodie, ask what foods and beverages are safe and which you should stay away from completely. If you’ve got a touch of wanderlust, ask about limitations on traveling. I’m not just talking about the typical “no flying in the third trimester” thing, but if you’re at risk for something like blood clots or pulmonary embolisms, road trips may not be in your near future. Depending on the severity of your high-risk pregnancy, you should also ask about if and when you will need to quit work. As much as you don’t want to think about it, bed rest may be a real possibility for you at some point in your pregnancy. You may start to feel like trying to keep some semblance of your “normal” life is pointless, but don’t lose hope.
3. There is ME in TEAM!
Most likely, since you are high-risk, your primary doctor will want to set up a medical team of sorts to monitor you and your baby throughout the pregnancy. For instance, I’m seeing my regular OBGYN, a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist, a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist (GI), and an orthopedic doctor. They wanted me to see a rheumatologist as well, but they couldn’t find one in my area that accepted my insurance, so they just monitor my ANA levels and send me for regular labwork. So find out as soon as possible what kind of doctors they will want you to see, which are absolutely necessary, who accepts your insurance, and how much they expect you to be involved in compiling this team. And I will continue stressing this, don’t be intimidated and remember that this team is there for you. If you feel there is not enough communication happening between the various doctors you are seeing, speak up! Once when I was getting labwork done, the nurse realized there was a duplicate order and that was because the GI and the MFM had not shared plans with each other and ordered the same tests. Good times.
2. Hold It
Another seemingly silly piece of advice, but a lifesaver, if you ask me. DON’T PEE BEFORE YOUR VISIT!!! At your first prenatal appointment, they are going to ask you to give a sample, and by sample they mean pee. Bad news for you if you went before you left your house. Because they will make you sit there and drink water from those flimsy cone cups until your bladder tank is full enough. Not a major issue, but I do wish someone had told me they would need a sample before my first visit. So now I’m telling you. You’re welcome.
1. ENJOY THIS!!!
It may be hard to put all the anxiety and negativity out of your head, but just take a second to stop and realize how awesome this is. Forget all the downers and hypothetical tragedies. You have a life growing inside of you! Savor this moment. At your first visit they will do an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy, so this will be the first time you will get to see your baby! Honestly, it won’t look like a baby, but it’s still pretty freaking cool! So embrace this amazing time in your life and cherish it 🙂