Consistent prenatal care is important for both your health and your child's. By consistently attending appointments, baby's growth is closely monitored, and you have many opportunities to ask questions.
While some high-risk pregnancies require additional visits or tests, the following is a typical prenatal care schedule for a routine pregnancy.
Initial obstetric (OB) visit
At your initial OB visit, a provider asks your medical history and performs a physical examination. This includes a Pap test (unless you are already up-to-date), as well as prenatal lab tests to screen for blood type, Rh factor, antibodies, anemia, rubella immunity, hepatitis B and sexually transmitted diseases.
Routine prenatal visits
Routine visits typically follow this schedule, though your provider may adjust as necessary.
- Up to 28 weeks: one prenatal visit every 3-5 weeks.
- Weeks 28 through 36: one prenatal visit every 2-3 weeks
- Weeks 36 to delivery: one prenatal visit at least weekly
Some prenatal visits can be completed virtually. Check with your doctor about that option.
At each routine visit, you are weighed, receive a blood pressure and urine check, and measured for uterine size (sometimes called fundal height). Starting at 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy, you’re able to listen to baby’s heartbeat at every visit.
Ultrasounds and screenings
Your provider offers a number of routine tests to monitor your health and screen for potential complications with your baby's health, including:
- First trimester screening
This screens for chromosomal abnormalities including Down syndrome (trisomy 21), trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. The results of a blood test are combined with the results of a special ultrasound, called a nuchal translucency (NT) scan, to determine baby's risk for these disorders. If tests above return abnormal results, you will be offered a diagnostic test such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis to confirm the diagnosis.
- AFP Tetra test
This optional test, typically done around 16 weeks, screens for Down syndrome, trisomies 13 and 18, and neural tube defects.
- Cystic fibrosis carrier testing
- Abdominal ultrasound to examine fetal anatomy and growth
This is normally done between 18 and 20 weeks. We might be able to tell the sex of your baby at this ultrasound (if you want to know).
- Glucose tolerance testing
This test is performed between 24 and 28 weeks. This is offered in your first trimester if you have certain risk factors for gestational diabetes
- Hemoglobin recheck
This is a screen for anemia, which is very common in pregnancy.
- Antibody screen
- If you are Rh negative, an additional blood test to screen for abnormal antibodies is done between 24 and 28 weeks.
- HIV and syphilis testing
This blood testing between 24 and 28 weeks may be required by state law.
- Vaginal/rectal culture for Group B strep
This is done between 35 and 37 weeks. Gonorrhea and chlamydia testing might also be done at this time depending on individual risk factors.
- Cervix checks
Normally offered at 39 and 40 weeks to check for dilation.
Concerns between visits
Pregnancy can be stressful, especially if you become concerned about your health or your child's.
Spotting, cramping or other pains are often completely normal, but can sometimes indicate bigger problems. If you have concerns between office visits, do not hesitate to consult your physician.
Childbirth is unpredictable — but thinking through your preferences ahead of time can make you feel more confident on the day of. Download our birth preparation guide.