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Timing of First Prenatal Visit

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Every woman who finds out she is pregnant experiences the moment in a different way. You may find yourself thinking "Hooray!" or "Now what?" (Or possibly a mix of feelings: one part euphoria, one part sheer terror.) The classic next step is to make a phone call to the doctor. However, first-time mothers may be surprised to learn that a first prenatal visit with a care provider typically won't happen until around the 10th and 12th weeks of pregnancy, which medical professionals measure from the first day of your last period. The question is, why that far along? What makes this a key time to begin prenatal care?

Dr. Mark LeDuc, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Mercy Obstetrics & Gynecology Clinic in Mason City, Iowa, says a variety of reasons make this a good time for your first visit:

  • Many providers offer an ultrasound at this stage to pinpoint an accurate gestational age. Checking too soon means the developing baby will be difficult to see, and it is important both for you and your providers to go forward with an accurate estimated due date.
  • The closer a pregnancy gets to 14 weeks, the lower the risk of miscarriage. So waiting until 10–12 weeks for your first appointment means that things likely are developing well for your baby.
  • And don't wait longer for your first visit, because it's important to identify patients who are at risk for complications, to help prevent problems before they occur.

In addition to the medical reasons, personal issues make this first prenatal visit important, too. You'll want to find a doctor or other care provider who is a good fit for you and who makes you feel at ease. You're much more likely to be honest with someone you feel comfortable speaking with—and to trust their medical advice should any problems arise.

"This first visit, along with the first few early visits, should be used as a time to build rapport, start important conversations, and ensure that comfort is established," LeDuc says.

The first visit may seem far away from your actual due date, but the time will pass quickly. Early care can help prepare you for those moments later on that can be overwhelming or even frightening at times. Establishing a good patient/doctor relationship early on can smooth your journey down the road of pregnancy.

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