A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

First trimester tips: What to expect in early pregnancy

Man and woman excited about a pregnancy test

A positive pregnancy test can bring excitement and a lot of questions about prenatal appointments and what physical changes to expect in the first trimester.

The first trimester of pregnancy can be full of excitement and uncertainty at the same time.

If it’s your first pregnancy, you’ll probably have a lot of questions the moment you see a positive test.

“Women who get regular periods may find out they’re pregnant as soon as four to six weeks, and most women know by eight weeks when they’ve missed a cycle or two,” said Dr. Moyosore Adeyekun, a Marshfield Clinic OB-GYN physician. “Home pregnancy tests are quite reliable once you get a positive result.”

Call your OB-GYN provider to schedule your first prenatal appointment once you know you’re pregnant, and check out this insight about what to expect during your first 12 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy.

Practice healthy habits

As soon as you find out you’re expecting, take these steps to protect your health and the health of your growing baby:

  • Stop using tobacco products.
  • Stop using recreational drugs, including marijuana.
  • Stop drinking alcohol.
  • Take a daily prenatal vitamin with 800 micrograms of folic acid.
  • Eat a healthful diet.
  • Continue your normal exercise routine or get active by walking.

What to expect at your first appointment

The first prenatal appointment usually happens when you’re 6-10 weeks pregnant, depending on when you find out you’re expecting. Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, medications, past pregnancies, family history and health habits.

Part of the first visit is optimizing your knowledge about pregnancy, risk reduction and avoiding pregnancy hazards,” Adeyekun said. “I counsel my patients on taking vitamins, exercising, eating a healthy diet and quitting substances that are harmful to the baby.”

You’ll learn your due date, which is calculated based on the date of your last period or an ultrasound if you don’t remember the date.

Your doctor will do a complete physical exam to check for undiagnosed medical conditions. He or she will review your medications and provide pregnancy-safe prescriptions and over-the-counter options if necessary.

Blood tests at your first appointment will check for anemia, sexually transmitted diseases and other infections that can be treated or managed to protect you and your baby. Your doctor will talk to you about genetic testing and prenatal screenings to check for fetal abnormalities.

Most women have one to three prenatal appointments during the first trimester. You may have more if you have health conditions that make your pregnancy high risk.

Pay attention to changes in your body

You may notice pregnancy symptoms before you know you’re pregnant and throughout your first trimester. Nausea, breast tenderness, mild lower abdominal cramping and appetite changes are some of the most common things women notice. Some women have no symptoms.

Although nausea and vomiting are normal, they shouldn’t interrupt your daily life. Prescription medication can help reduce these symptoms.

However, vaginal bleeding and severe cramping aren’t normal pregnancy symptoms.

“A little bit of spotting is not serious for most patients but you still need to tell your doctor,” Adeyekun said.

If you’re not sure whether what you’re experiencing is a normal part of pregnancy, give your doctor’s office a call.

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