Prenatal care is essential in ensuring the overall health and wellness of both mother and child. The first prenatal care visit can be stressful for women because doctors generally gather a lot of information, in order to make sure that the pregnancy can be as problem free as possible.

Your medical provider will generally get a comprehensive medical history from you. This will include details regarding your menstrual cycle, contraceptive use, allergies, past pregnancies, and other conditions. In order for your doctor to properly manage your pregnancy, it is important that you divulge even sensitive information such as abortion and use of drugs. If you were unable to share these with any of your family members, you can request that you talk to your doctor in private. The important thing is to rule out any risks or potential problems during your pregnancy.

Health care providers conduct a lot of tests in order to determine that you are not having a high risk pregnancy. Here’s a list of the common tests ordered by your doctor during the first visit:

  •  Physical Exam – Your doctor will check your blood pressure, height and weight. Aside from assessing your overall health, your doctor will also particularly assess your heart, lungs and breasts.
  • Pelvic Exam – A Pap smear is done in order to check for cervical cancer and other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia. A bimanual internal exam is also performed to determine the size or the uterus and pelvis. This may cause a slight discomfort but it is essential in checking for abnormalities in the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
  • Complete Blood Count – This test is done to determine infection, presence of anemia and to determine clotting ability.
  • Serologic Test for Syphillis – Syphillis must be treated in early in pregnancy to prevent fetal damage. The deformities may range from bone and tooth deformities to nerve and brain damage. 
  •  Blood Typing – This is important because pregnant women with bleeding tendencies need to have blood available in case of emergencies.
  • Maternal Serum for Alpha-Fetoprotein (MSAFP) – This test is important in determining neural tube and abdominal defects in the fetus. It is usually conducted at 16 to 18 weeks of gestation.
  • Rubella – This test is done to screen for immunity against German measles. Most Americans are immune against rubella because vaccinations are given during childhood. If you didn’t get the vaccine, avoid people with this disease. Although it may be rare, it can cause very serious complications for your baby.
  •  Antibody Titers for Hepatitis B (HBsAg) – This test is used to screen for Hepatitis B, which may be transmitted to the baby during childbirth.
  • Varicella – This test is used to screen for immunity against chickenpox. This test is usually ordered for women who have no history of the disease. An exposure during pregnancy may have harmful effects to the baby.  
  •  Urinalysis – Doctors need to test your urine to check for kidney disease and bladder infections. This test can also detect high levels of sugar which may indicate diabetes. Bladder infections are common among pregnant women, and if left untreated, it may cause problems for the baby.
  •  Indirect Coombs’ Test – This will determine if Rh antibodies are present. An Rh factor is a protein on the surface of the blood cells that trigger an immune system response. If a woman is Rh negative and her partner is Rh positive, the baby’s blood type may not match, and it may cause Rh incompatibility. The incompatibility will trigger the mother’s body to produce antibodies that may be harmful to the baby. Thus, an injection of Rh immune globulin (Rhogam) during the 28th week of pregnancy is essential. This injection is also given in the event of bleeding during pregnancy and after delivery of the baby. 
  •  HIV Test – This test in pregnancy is optional, but it is recommended because it allows a HIV positive woman to begin therapy with Zidovudine (AZT). AZT may decrease the risk of the infant developing the disease. Women who have a history of using intravenous drugs, and who have multiple sex partners are encouraged to undergo testing. This may be a very important but it is never mandatory, so women have the right to refuse testing.
  • Genetic Tests – Your doctor may also order genetic tests to determine illnesses that can be passed to the baby as a result of defective genes. Doctors would usually prescribe this depending on your medical history and ethnic background. People of Mediterranean descent, Blacks, French Canadians and Jews have a higher risk of having Tay-Sach’s disease, sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.

Prenatal care is a very good step in ensuring a very healthy pregnancy. Although the first visit may require a lot of tests, these are ordered so you can have the best possible care during pregnancy. The succeeding prenatal visits may not be as long as the first one however, every visit is equally important. A pregnant woman must work closely together with her doctor to ensure a healthy pregnancy.