Discover the Importance of Prenatal Care
Discover the Importance of Prenatal Care
When you discover you are pregnant, there are a lot of new (and possibly foreign!) things to think about. You undeniably want to have a healthy, smooth pregnancy. Good health can go a long way in bringing a strong, healthy baby into the world. Health complications related to pregnancy occur in one third of pregnancies in the U.S., some of which lead to serious problems for babies and mothers. Fortunately, many of these health complications can be detected and treated with quality prenatal care.
What exactly happens at a prenatal visit?
The objective of having prenatal care is to have the healthiest baby and mother possible by preventing complications and informing soon-to-be mothers how to protect themselves and their babies. When you find out you are pregnant – and ideally even before that – you should select a healthcare professional who can monitor the growth and health of you and your baby throughout pregnancy. Your first visit should be scheduled between 8 and 12 weeks’ gestation, depending on your healthcare provider’s requirements. After that, you will visit the clinic or office every 4 weeks until 28 weeks’ gestation, every other week from weeks 28-36, and every week after 36 weeks along. At these final prenatal appointments, your doctor will begin checking the cervix for dilation and effacement, which signals how ready your body is for the delivery of your baby.
Prenatal care includes tests
At every prenatal visit, you can expect to have your blood pressure and weight checked. Your provider will also measure your belly for the growth of the baby, listen for her heartbeat, and ask for blood or urine samples and other screenings as needed. There is a plethora of prenatal tests out there that may or may not apply to you or your baby. These prenatal tests can be invasive or simple, and most screen for developmental disorders or disease for mother or baby. Some of these tests include:
- Blood glucose for gestational diabetes
- Amniocentesis – For this test, your doctor takes a sample of amniotic fluid for genetic testing or other reasons.
- Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) – An invasive test performed to check for genetic problems in the fetus.
- Blood and/or urine tests – Blood tests can reveal much about the health of you and your growing baby. For example, high protein levels in the blood stream could indicate preeclampsia; Rh factor could lead to an incompatibility with your baby’s blood; or low iron levels can point to anemia.
- Genetic testing – If you or your partner have a family history of genetic disorders, either of you and/or your baby can be tested to determine whether you carry genes for inherited disorders. Usually, a small tissue sample is sufficient for genetic screening, but for further testing your doctor may recommend amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS).
Screenings for abnormalities that can occur during pregnancy most often yield normal results. In the event there is something abnormal found, diagnosis and treatment can begin right away; a crucial step towards minimizing the effects of disease for you or your baby.
Gaining resources and support through prenatal visits
The 40 weeks of pregnancy can be a time used to prepare for the appearance of your new little baby. Your doctor or midwife can support and encourage you throughout pregnancy as you experience changes in your body and mood. They can answer your questions and recommend resources for pre- and post-delivery. You can expect to receive encouragement for healthful habits – such as exercise and eating well – and help in abstaining from tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Oftentimes, your health provider will offer (or provide a directory for) classes about labor and delivery, parenting, and postpartum care.
Quality prenatal care can help growing babies have the best chance for a productive life outside the womb. You can even begin receiving care before conceiving a baby. With good prenatal care, if there are any health complications related to the pregnancy, you and your baby can get the help you need immediately.
What questions do you have about prenatal care? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!