Five pregnancy questions for the first prenatal visit

During pregnancy, you will have between 10 and 15 prenatal visits with your obstetrician. The most important will be the first, where you can have many questions answered about what to expect during your pregnancy.

Schedule a prenatal visit as soon as you think you’re pregnant. This is a good opportunity for new moms- and dads-to-be to learn the labor process and determine a plan.

Pregnancy is a partnership between parents and their obstetrical team. Ask as many questions as you can think of. Here are five questions that are commonly asked on the first prenatal visit.

1. What is my due date?

Your due date — also known as the estimated date of confinement (EDC) — is calculated at 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period and is actually 38 weeks from conception. The accuracy of this date is extremely important for your clinician in ensuring a safe pregnancy outcome. Your obstetrician will likely perform an ultrasound in early pregnancy to confirm your due date. This is especially needed if you tend to have irregular menstrual cycles, but sonography is performed in virtually every pregnancy.

2. Do I need genetic screening?

All couples should have a detailed genetic screening taken by their clinician either before conception (ideal) or in early pregnancy. There are a number of routine noninvasive genetic screening tests recommended in all pregnancies, however, additional tests may be recommended based on your medical/pregnancy history, family history, age and ethnic background. Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a new way to obtain your baby’s DNA from a simple blood test from your arm. NIPT cannot check for all chromosome abnormalities, however, the test is highly accurate for a number of disorders.

3. What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?

Each clinician has his or her own beliefs regarding food restrictions. You should discuss this topic with your physician. Most practitioners agree that you should limit caffeine intake, avoid alcohol and stay away from uncooked beef (can cause toxoplasmosis) and unpasteurized cheeses (can cause listeria infection). Eating raw fish (sushi) should also be limited due to both the risk of bacterial infection and high mercury content in certain types of fish.

4. Can I continue with my exercise routine?

As long as your clinician has not limited your activity, low-impact exercise is actually recommended. Previously, pregnant women were told to keep their target heart rate below 140. However, current recommendations do not specify this restriction and you should discuss this with your physician.

5. Can I travel?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, travel in pregnancy is safe until 36 weeks for women who don’t experience fetal or maternal pregnancy complications. Also, the safest time to travel is between 14 and 28 weeks (least likely time to have a pregnancy complication). Certainly, one should avoid areas known to have Zika outbreaks. Mosquitos transmit the Zika virus and infection during or before pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects.

Michael Nimaroff, MD, is senior vice president and executive director of Northwell Health’s Ob-Gyn Services, as well as chief of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. He has practiced obstetrics and gynecology in the New York metropolitan area for more than 25 years and he founded and developed the minimally invasive surgery program at North Shore University Hospital. An associate professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Dr. Nimaroff is among the first physicians to offer gynecologic robotic procedures in the metropolitan area.