The Importance of Prenatal Care in a Positive Pregnancy Experience
Pregnancy-related deaths and diseases remain unacceptably high. The reason behind this phenomenon could be the lack of attention given to prenatal care or antenatal care.
The World Health Organization stresses the importance of a positive pregnancy experience by seeking prenatal care. This will not only ensure a healthy pregnancy for the mother and her child, but also an effective transition to positive labour and childbirth free of avoidable complications.
Prenatal care, or antenatal care, is a necessity in pregnancy. It is the healthcare a woman receives while expecting. Prenatal care includes several aspects covering the mother’s health pre and post-birth and the health of the baby.
It is crucial to seek prenatal care early and regularly throughout the pregnancy. It's ideal to start prenatal care before the woman gets pregnant.
Good prenatal care includes nutrition plans, routine visits, pregnancy check-ups, sonograms and vaccines.
Pregnancy is a truly miraculous phase that women go through. This makes this phase very critical and having proper healthcare becomes a must.
As obstetric care is rapidly developing, it makes prenatal care more vital.
If you do not get prenatal care you increase the risk of your child being born with low birth weight or death.
Now, your OB/GYN physician can detect nutritional deficiencies, fetal abnormalities and pregnancy complications, and provide you with the appropriate healthcare during your pregnancy and after giving birth.
Antenatal care is important for all pregnant women, whether they have a high-risk pregnancy or not. Early treatment can cure many issues and prevent others.
High-risk pregnancy are common in women and factors that affect them include:
- Chronic medical condition.
- Increased risk of preterm labor.
- Older than 35.
- Pregnant with more than one fetus.
During prenatal care, doctors offer proper guidance for the pregnant woman to give her unborn baby a healthy start to life. Proper antenatal care can guarantee you a positive pregnancy experience.
The earlier the better. Usually, pregnant women start visiting their doctors as soon as they get pregnant. However, starting even before that can be very helpful. This is sometimes called pre-pregnancy care or preconception planning.
How often should you visit your doctor?
The schedule for prenatal care depends on the overall health of the woman and how far along is the pregnancy. As having high-risk pregnancies require intensive care and more frequent visits to the ob/gyn.
However, the typical prenatal care schedule for healthy women is:
- The first 28 weeks: Once every 4 weeks.
- From 28 to 36 weeks: Once every 2 or 3 weeks.
- From 36 weeks until delivery: Once every week.
On the other hand, if you are older than 35 years old and have risk factors for prenatal complications, you should visit your doctor more often.
As an expecting mother, you should stick to the schedule that your ob/gyn suggests.
Depending on the trimester of your pregnancy the doctor will focus on certain aspects in your health as well as your fetus’ overall condition.
During the first prenatal visits, your doctor will gather information about your health history including diseases, operations, or previous pregnancies and your family's health history. This will help him/her understand your genetic risks and and create an overall profile.
Also, the following tests will be performed:
- Your weight and blood pressure will be measured.
- A urine sample will be tested for sugar and protein.
- Your uterus will be measured to follow the growth of the fetus.
- A complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam, breast exam and Pap test.
- Due date calculation.
Additional tests might be required, depending on your individual condition or special needs.
Later during pregnancy, your prenatal visits will probably be shorter. Your physician will check your health and will monitor the baby’s growth, to make sure everything is going as expected. As well as tests to ensure the avoidance of pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
Reaching the end of your pregnancy, your visits will include discussions about labor and delivery and may include an internal examination to check your cervix for thinning and dilation.
Starting to seek the appropriate prenatal care can be overwhelming. But, there are several basic steps that can be taken to ensure you’re getting the required care.
- Visit your OB/GYN early and regularly
Ideally, you should start visiting your ob/gyn when you are planning to get pregnant. However, if you didn’t start prenatal care this early, once you know you’re pregnant you have to start visiting a doctor. Your doctor will make sure everything is going okay and will tell you what to expect in the coming period.
- Start taking folic acid
Women should start taking 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid three months before getting pregnant to reduce the risk of fetal birth defects or brain damage. There are several routes of administration but folic acid oral vitamins are the best and most efficient way to ensure you’re getting the required dose.
- Get all medical conditions under control
Health conditions such as asthma, depression, epilepsy, diabetes, and high blood pressure should be under control before trying to get pregnant.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date
This is a major part in pregnancy preperation. You should talk to your doctor about any vaccinations that need to be updated within the next year. These should be completed before trying to get pregnant.
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
Alcohol and nicotine can be very harmful to your fetus. Give yourself enough time to quit and regain a healthy lifestyle before trying to get pregnant.