Family Planning Series, Part 1: Key Pregnancy Milestones

Family Planning Series, Part 1: Key Pregnancy Milestones

1000 667 Satta Sarmah Hightower

Pregnancy is an exciting — and busy — time for soon-to-be parents. It’s a 40-week journey that will take you through a whole range of emotions and experiences, and navigating it requires a lot of organization and planning. After all, you’re preparing for something truly life-changing.

If this is your first time around, you may not be sure what to expect, especially when it comes to prenatal care. To help you set your course, here are some of the key pregnancy milestones you’ll be likely to experience.

First Trimester: Weeks 1 to 8

You might think that as soon as the lines appear on your pregnancy test, you should head to your doctor’s office. However, you don’t have to spring into action immediately — it’ll actually be a few weeks before you see your OB-GYN. Usually, when a woman discovers she’s pregnant, she’s already several weeks along, so your first prenatal visit likely will take place about eight weeks after your last period.

During your first visit, your doctor will ask about your medical history, perform a physical exam and draw some blood, both to check your hemoglobin (blood protein) levels and to screen for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.

You’ll also get your first ultrasound so your doctor can confirm your pregnancy. Your doctor will ask about the date of your last period to determine your due date.

First to Second Trimester: Weeks 8 to 28

During your first and second trimester, you’ll visit your doctor about every four to six weeks. These visits will usually follow the same routine — a medical assistant or nurse will check your weight and blood pressure, and your doctor will listen to your baby’s heartbeat and measure your baby’s fundal height, which is used to gauge how well your baby is growing.

During this period, you’ll also undergo a 20-week ultrasound. This will give your health care team more details on your baby’s anatomy, including how the organs are developing and information about your baby’s sex (if you choose to find out).

Second to Third Trimester: Weeks 28 to 36

In your third trimester, you’ll visit the doctor more frequently — about every two to three weeks. Your care team will follow the same routine of checking your vitals and measuring your baby’s growth, and you may undergo testing for anemia and gestational diabetes.

Toward the end of this trimester, your doctor will also check the position of your baby. You’ll want the baby to be head down, which is the optimal position for delivery.

Third Trimester: Weeks 36 to 40

Your typical prenatal visits will continue, but you’ll see your doctor every week until you deliver. As you near the end of your pregnancy, your doctor will likely perform a cervical exam to check if your cervix is dilated or beginning to open. You’ve probably heard that doctors won’t allow you to push during labor until you’re 10 centimeters dilated. Dilation can begin a few weeks — or even a few days — before you go into labor, so checking this during one of your last prenatal visits could be an indicator of how close you are to welcoming your baby in the hospital or at home.

Finally, in week 40, you’ll likely meet your baby, though that isn’t set in stone. About 18 percent of babies are born either before 37 weeks or after 42 weeks.

Having a child is a journey unlike any other. It’s an eventful and busy time, and along the way, you’ll experience pregnancy milestones that will bring you one step closer to meeting the little life you’ve carried all these weeks.

Satta Sarmah Hightower

Satta Sarmah Hightower primarily focuses on health care, technology, and personal finances.

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