The Quick and Dirty Guide to Your First Prenatal Appointment

Mazel tov, you’re having a baby!

Oh my God, you’re having a baby.

Yeah, I know. That gap of time between your positive pee stick and your actual first prenatal appointment is filled with waves of excitement and anxiety. Even if you’ve planned this pregnancy, chances are you’ve spent more time reading about getting pregnant than being pregnant, and you’ve still got the actual labor and delivery ahead of you. Think your doctor will tell you everything you need to know right off the bat? Think again. Here’s a quick guide for navigating the confusing waters of your first prenatal appointment.

1. What kind of birth do you want?

The answer to this question will dictate your entire birth plan. Do you want a natural birth, or do you want to be medicated up the wazoo? Chances are, you won’t know until you’ve done your research online and attended a few birthing classes. Take your time and leave your options open. I started by asking my practice what kind of birth process they preferred. That can tell you a lot about their philosophy on child birth and what you may wind up experiencing in the labor room.

2. Do you want a doctor or a midwife attending your birth?

I knew right off the bat that I wanted to work with midwives, but desired a doctor for backup if necessary. Once I located a practice that employed midwives in my area, I asked them to give me their philosophy on the birthing process. Having an open dialogue gave me the peace of mind I needed in order to foster a successful pregnancy.

3. Where do you want to give birth to your baby?

Location, location, location. Your access to things like pain medication, emergency procedures, and comfort are going to be determined by location. My mother-in-law preferred a birthing center for the same reason I preferred a hospital: it felt like the safest place in which to bring children into the world.

 4. What’s your doctor’s (and the hospital’s) C-section rate?

This one is a biggie. I was hugely against having a c-section unless it proved medically necessary. Hence, I worked with a midwifery group that treated my 38-hour labor with patience. Most doctors set a time limit on labor and pressure their patients to proceed with surgical intervention if the labor works against the clock.

5. How many coaches are permitted in the labor room?

This is an important question for all those in your life who want a front row seat. Prepare them from the outset that they’re either welcome to join in or will have to wait outside.

6. Does your practice work with a local doula?

Some women, especially those pursuing natural labor, swear by their doulas. Good ones are worth the money. Get recommendations.

7. Do you want to breastfeed?

While many hospitals are advocates of a “breast is best” mentality, you’re on your own when it comes to figuring out how to feed your child. Ask if your practice provides counseling in breastfeeding, or if they can refer you to local resources. Go to breastfeeding groups in advance, do your research and be prepared. Breastfeeding does not come naturally to most women, and you’re going to have to do it right off the bat, regardless of how exhausted you may be.