Pregnancy Information Center

Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


Making the Most of Your Prenatal Appointments


What to expect at the ob/gyn, plus tips to get what you need out of every visit

By Gina Roberts-Grey


Did you know that all tolled you’ll make anywhere from 10 to 15 trips to see your healthcare provider if your pregnancy is routine? That can add up to an entire workday, if your visits are 30 minutes (and that doesn’t even include the wait!).

Since you got the good news, you’ve probably been going for check-ups every 4 weeks and will continue to do so until week 28, says Jan Penvose-Yi, MD, FACOG, an ob/gyn at Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside, CA. Then the visits will become more frequent. “Most women see the doctor every 2 weeks from weeks 28 to 36 and then weekly until 40 weeks or delivery,” she adds, though schedules can vary, and there is a chance your provider will keep you on monthly visits through week 32.

Depending on how the practice is structured, some of those visits will probably include spending time with people other than your ob/gyn: medical assistants, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, midwives, ultrasound technicians, and a maternal fetal–medicine specialist may take part in exams, reviewing health background and aiding in tests and ultrasounds (sonograms). 


What to Expect at Your Provider’s Office

No matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in, every visit will include a stop at the scales. “A mom’s weight can help monitor both her, and her baby’s, health,” says David Jaspan, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, PA. Use the handy weight tracker in our I’m Expecting app (for iOS and Android) to monitor your gain. You can even see a graph of your numbers, useful for showing to your doctor at each visit.

Other routine checks will include a blood pressure measurement test and a urine test to look for protein and/or sugar, which may be a sign of gestational diabetes, says Penvose-Yi. These tests help your doctor spot any potential health problems early, as well as ensure your baby’s growth is on track. Depending on your provider, you’ll hear the baby’s heartbeat at most, if not every visit, too.

Then, there are other tests and milestones that will happen at certain prenatal visits as your belly swells:

4 to 8 weeks. Your first visit covers your health history and your family’s and includes a complete physical. The goal: getting a good picture of your and your baby’s health.

10 weeks. Hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Depending on your doctor’s standard practices, you may have an ultrasound. 

16 to 18 weeks. Blood tests to look for neural tube and genetic defects.

18 to 20 weeks. An ultrasound will give you the first peek at your little one and allow your doctor to perform a visual exam of your baby. If your baby isn’t shy and turns toward the monitor, you may be able to find out the gender, if you want.

20 weeks. Monitoring of fundal height (the distance from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus) begins. This will be checked at every visit from now on, to make sure the baby is growing properly.

24 to 28 weeks. Blood tests for anemia, as well as checks for gestational diabetes

28 to 30 weeks. If you’re Rh negative (meaning you have a negative blood type), you’ll have an antibody screen and may be given Rh immunoglobulin to protect your baby during delivery, in the event that their blood type is positive.

35 to 36 weeks. A vaginal/rectal culture to check for group B streptococcus (GBS), a common bacteria, in the intestines. 


Expert Tips to Maximize Your Visit

When you’re making ob/gyn appointments, try to be your doctor’s first appointment of the day. “That may help avoid spending excess time in the waiting room, because of emergencies with other patients that could arise during the day,” says Jaspan. And even if your doctor is running behind, Jaspan stresses that you should be the most important person in the room during your visit. “You deserve their full attention and should feel comfortable asking whatever questions you have, or discussing any concerns.” 

Since you can’t always be the day’s first visit, Jaspan also recommends jotting down anything you want to cover before you go. “Patients are often more likely to get their needs met during their appointment when they can work off a checklist. That also gives a provider a framework to have a dialogue regarding the question or concern.” 

Our I’m Expecting app (for iOS and Android) lets you track symptoms over time in a calendar, the perfect way to show your doctor how often you’ve been experiencing a certain side effect of pregnancy. You can even jot down notes to remember topics you’d like to discuss, too. 


Additional reporting by Jenilee Matz, MPH.


Published on November 11, 2015.


Gina Roberts-Grey is an award-winning writer based in upstate NY who specializes in health and wellness articles and celebrity interviews.

Reviewed by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG on July 26, 2015.
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