When I found out that was I pregnant after 1.5 years of trying, I was ecstatic! I spent a small fortune on 4 different pregnancy test brands just to be sure and after cherishing the moment with my husband, I immediately wanted to see a doctor.
When I called to make an appointment with an OBGYN, they asked me a couple of questions and was told that I had to wait until I was 8 weeks pregnant before I could see a doctor. Um, excuse me? I waited this long and now I had to wait over a month to see a doctor? I was shocked, confused, and felt like I was left on my own to figure out the rest.
Which means I purchased books on Amazon.com and supplemented with information from blogs and comments in online forums. Some of the advice was fine but almost none of it came from a medical perspective.
When a friend recently told me she was pregnant and also couldn’t believe the wait time, I contacted Penn Medicine to get answers to common questions first-time expectant moms have during those first critical weeks.
Dr. Kyra C. Williams, an OBGYN at Penn Medicine and Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, was kind enough to take the time to answer the following questions:
Q: What is the rationale behind the waiting period and are there any exceptions?
A: A newly pregnant patient is often anxious to be seen as soon as possible after a positive pregnancy test. However, there isn’t much that needs to be done immediately and it is often best to be seen at about 7 or 8 weeks when an intrauterine pregnancy can be confirmed by ultrasound.
Waiting until this gestational age may feel like a long time but it is actually only 3-4 weeks after the earliest possible pregnancy test. That being said, if a woman were to develop significant pain or bleeding, she should contact her doctor for evaluation to ensure that the pregnancy is located within her uterus and is not an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy.
Additionally, women with “negative” blood types require a medication if they have bleeding, another reason women should contact a doctor if they have bleeding in pregnancy.
Women who have chronic medical conditions or are on medications should also contact their physician about whether there is any modification or change in medication required related to pregnancy.
Q: What general advice do you have for women during that first trimester?
A: Early in pregnancy, women typically don’t need to change their activity or behavior significantly. They can continue to exercise and perform their normal activities. Women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy and I typically recommend women limit caffeine and artificial sweetener intake to 1 serving or less per day.
Women often ask me when they should tell people they are pregnant. I typically recommend a patient tell a few close friends or relatives about the pregnancy, those she would want support for if she were to miscarry. She may wish to wait to tell everyone else until after completing the first trimester when the risk of miscarriage is significantly lower.
Q: What types of prenatal vitamins should expectant moms take?
A: We recommend women start taking prenatal vitamins a couple of months prior to attempting pregnancy, but if they aren’t taking them when they find out they are pregnant, they should start. All prenatal vitamins contain folic acid because there is evidence that women who are deficient in folic acid have a higher risk having a fetus with spina bifida.
I also typically recommend choosing a prenatal vitamin which contains DHA (typically from fish oil) as there are some studies which indicate there may be improved eye and brain development when women are given supplemental DHA.
Over the counter prenatal vitamins are very good but women should make sure to read the label regarding serving size as some more natural vitamins require more than one pill daily. There are also gummy versions available for those who can’t swallow pills.
Q: Is it a good idea to interview different OBGYNs and if so, when?
A: It is important to select an obstetrician with whom a woman feels comfortable. The best time to do so is prior to becoming pregnant. Women can schedule an appointment for preconception counseling. At this visit a patient can discuss any medical factors which could affect pregnancy and if she requires any vaccinations or blood work prior to pregnancy.
This is also a time during which a patient could ask questions regarding delivery goals and practice philosophy. At this visit, she could discuss what types of providers are in the practice, such as doctors, midwives or nurse practitioners, and what type of provider might be best for care through pregnancy and delivery.
It is best to select an OB practice and continue with that group throughout the pregnancy so your providers get to know you and you get to know your doctors.
To learn more about Penn Medicine’s Obstetrics Services: