by Dr Kath Turner, senior GP – Hunters Hill Medical Practice
Congratulations… you’re pregnant!! Amongst the excitement/disbelief/shock is the thought of “what do I do now??” Hopefully by the end of this article you will have some answers and be feeling much more comfortable about the journey ahead.
Now that you’ve missed your period and probably pee-ed on the stick (be honest… it was more than once – perhaps 3 or 4 tests!), it’s time to make an appointment with your GP. The initial appointment will involve a lot of information sharing and education. We will ask you when was the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). This is the date we use to calculate the expected date of delivery (EDD), which is 40 weeks after the LMP. We will also ask questions regarding your menstrual cycle, any previous pregnancies and deliveries, and any relevant family history. It is a good time to check if you need help to quit smoking or avoid drinking alcohol.
Your pregnancy will be confirmed by a blood test (measuring a hormone called BHCG) – we also will check in this blood test a standard series of markers including your haemoglobin, your blood group, screen for viruses including Rubella, chickenpox, Hepatitis, Syphilis and HIV. A urine test will also be requested and it is important to check if your cervical screening test is up to date.
Your GP will discuss the many options for care during your pregnancy. We are very fortunate in our area to have access to excellent services offered by RNSH & Ryde Hospitals. You can choose from Antenatal clinics at the hospital, midwife-led care, GP shared care, or you may elect to see a Private Obstetrician. Throughout your pregnancy journey you will see your caregiver at regular intervals and you can expect to have further blood tests, ultrasound scans and other investigations depending on your individual clinical circumstances.
At the initial consult, your GP will also provide education regarding appropriate supplementation (ensuring you are on folate and iodine), food safety in pregnancy, appropriate vaccinations, discuss the importance of exercise and optimising your mental health and wellbeing. We can also offer preventative advice – for example, managing morning sickness.
Most people elect to have a dating scan which can be done at around the 7-8 week mark – this is to check that the size of the baby matches the expected dates. In addition to this, there are certain times during the pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, when we have the option to organise specialised blood tests and ultrasounds as screening investigations for various genetic conditions, including Downs Syndrome. You will also be offered reproductive carrier screening (to see if you carry the gene for common conditions like Cystic fibrosis). All of these tests are optional and your Doctor will assist you in the decision-making process.
Throughout your pregnancy you will see your care provider on a regular basis. Your partner is welcome. At each visit we will check your blood pressure and weight, feel your tummy and listen for the heartbeat. It is a great opportunity to ask any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Even if your pregnancy is going well, it is important you attend these visits so that any potential risks or harms can be identified and prevented, or at least minimised.
Pregnancy can be a wonderful and exciting time – it can also be overwhelming. Talking to your doctor or midwife is so important – we are here to help guide you through the maze. Remember to enjoy the journey as much as you can and we look forward to travelling the path alongside you.
Dr Kath Turner is a senior GP from Hunters Hill Medical Practice. She is an accredited GP-Shared care provider for RNSH and RPAH Antenatal Clinics. Hunters Hill Medical Practice has multiple GPs that can assist you with your pregnancy needs.