There is nothing quite like anticipating your first doctor’s visit for a new pregnancy following a loss. This appointment sets the stage for open and healthy communication with your medical provider to ensure you and baby receive the best possible care. So you’ll want to come prepared.
Here’s a list of what you can bring with you to your first doctor’s visit:
Bring proof of insurance. If you do not have insurance, be sure to call ahead to find out the financials of your care and ask about available assistance if you need it. Come at least 15 minutes early to your appointment to fill out the necessary paperwork. Or fill out your history ahead of time if the office uses an online patient portal.
While this might not make the list on most pregnancy apps, we feel it’s imperative that, as a loss mother, you embrace that you are your baby’s best advocate. It’s important you feel as safe and comfortable as possible in this pregnancy. Now is not the time to be a “good” patient who doesn’t make any waves. This is the time to vocalize your concerns about this pregnancy and ensure your concerns will be reasonably and quickly addressed.
Speak up about what you need, how you need it, and when you need it. A good practitioner will appreciate a well-informed, highly motivated patient.
A written list of your questions and concerns.
One of the best ways to advocate is to bring a written list of your questions and concerns. Do not rely on your memory for this – emotions, short appointment times, and distraction can cause even the most prepared to miss something important.
At least a few days before the appointment, write down any questions and concerns you have. This way if something else pops into your mind before the appointment, you’ll have time to add it to the list. Put your most important questions first. If your appointment time runs out before you’ve gone through everything, at least your most pressing concerns have been addressed.
Some questions you might consider are:
- What can we do at this stage in pregnancy to increase my chances of a good outcome?
- Is there any way to prevent what happened with my loss? What do you recommend we do differently this time because of my loss (such as inducing early, extra monitoring, medicine or activity restrictions)?
- How high-risk is this pregnancy? What are my specific risks?
- Will I need to see a specialist during this pregnancy? Who do you recommend?
- Are there any additional tests you would recommend?
- What are your diet recommendations?
- Are there any physical activities I need to abstain from? Are there any travel restrictions?
- What is my schedule for being seen during this pregnancy?
- Do I need to adjust or add any medications or supplements?
- What should I do if I think something is wrong? What warrants an after-hours call? What would you consider an obstetric emergency and how should I respond?
You may not get through your whole list of questions, so just be sure you are clear on what you need to do and what you can expect from now through to your next appointment.
A list of your current medications and supplements.
Help your doctor manage your overall health and risks by bringing an updated list of your current medications and supplements and your dosage. Advise your doctor if there are any medications you have been prescribed that you have stopped taking.
Your medical and pregnancy history place a significant role in this new pregnancy. Make sure your doctor has up-to-date information on your current health issues in addition to your pregnancy history. Requesting an office-to-office transfer of medical records is possible, but there is a chance your request may not be processed expediently. At least a few days before your first doctor’s visit, call your practitioner to confirm your records were received. If they weren’t, you can request the transfer again. Or better yet, pick them up in person and bring them to your appointment with you.
Doctor’s appointments can feel rushed and you may struggle to feel heard (or struggle to remember everything that was said). One way to alleviate this is to bring a support person with you, such as your partner, family member, friend, or doula if you plan to hire one. Before the appointment, share with them how they can help you feel most comfortable. Do you want them to help distract you in the waiting room? Hold your hand during the ultrasound?
Give them a copy of your questions/concerns list so they can follow along in the appointment and bring up a high-priority item if it is missed. They can also take notes of your doctor’s recommendations for you, so you can remain fully engaged in the conversation with your provider. In the event there is bad news, it will be helpful to know you don’t have to go through it alone.
List of your current and past medical providers.
If you are seeing a new provider, be sure to provide a list of your previous OBGYNs or midwives and their contact info. Be sure to include any current providers you are seeing such as your primary care doctor and any specialist for ongoing medical issues.
Your doctor or nurse will ask you about your medical history – both to establish your current health as well as any additional risk factors that may affect this current pregnancy. You will be asked how many pregnancies and live births you’ve had. Your provider may ask you to explain in your own words your losses. If you are concerned that you’ll forget something important, you can write out a succinct history and bring it with you. But be prepared that they may ask you to elaborate.
An openness to change.
After this first appointment, you may feel this is not the right provider or office for this pregnancy. If you are uncertain that you want to continue at this office, reach out to friends and ask for referrals … then check out a few other providers. You do not have to commit to seeing this one provider for the rest of your pregnancy just because you had your first appointment with them.
While this is not a tangible item you can print out and bring with you to your first doctor’s visit, it is no less important. A hope that pregnancy, this outcome, can be different can carry you through even the most challenging milestones. Make PALS founder Lindsey Henke’s words your new mantra: “This is a different pregnancy, a different baby, a different story, with a different ending.”
Just as important as what to bring to your appointment is what you need to have in hand when you leave. Be sure to have the following:
- Clear instructions on how to best contact your medical team.
- Understanding what the next steps are (testing, appointments, etc.).
- Date and time of your next appointment.
- A list of symptoms that would warrant an after-hours call or trip to the ER.
- List of instructions specific to you and your history, such as modifications to diet, medications, approved activities, etc.
- Clear instructions on referrals you might need and how to schedule those appointments.
Your first appointment with a subsequent pregnancy can feel overwhelming. But the right preparation and support will help you and your baby receive the care you deserve.