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:
- Up to 26 weeks pregnant: appointment every four weeks
- 26 to 32 weeks: appointment every three weeks
- 32 to 36 weeks: appointment every two weeks
- 36 weeks to delivery: appointment every week
At each routine visit, you are weighed, receive a blood pressure and urine check, and measured for uterine size (sometimes called fundal height). From 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 tests for Down syndrome and another chromosomal abnormality called trisomy 18. The results of a blood test are combined with the results of a special ultrasound, often called a nuchal translucency (NT) scan, to determine baby's risk for these disorders. If tests above return abnormal results, you may choose to have chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis tests to further screen for genetic abnormalities.
- AFP Tetra test
This optional test, typically done around 16 weeks, screens for Down syndrome 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 is offered in your first trimester if you have certain risk factors for gestational diabetes, or between 24 and 28 weeks if you have no risk factors.
- Hemoglobin recheck
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 done 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.