Pregnancy can be filled with joy and wonder as well as concerns and fears. It is important for the mother to take care of herself and her baby with prenatal care.
Most pregnant women are otherwise healthy and prenatal care is intended to monitor the baby’s growth and the mother’s well-being. Any concerns or prior health conditions will be carefully managed with both the mother’s and the baby’s health in mind.
After becoming pregnant, the initial prenatal visit should be schedule between the 10th and 12th week. If you are unsure of date of conception, see you doctor to confirm pregnancy. The first initial prenatal visit covers medical history, how the mother is feeling, basic information such as weight and blood pressure, a physical exam including a pelvic exam to check the size and shape of the uterus, and a Pap smear to check for any abnormalities of the cervix.
Urine and blood tests will be taken during the first visit. Discussion about genetic screening options typically take place at this visit also. Future visits include tests to check for diabetes of pregnancy, anemia, preeclampsia, high blood pressure (gestational hypertension), and vaginal group B strep infection. Recommended immunizations will also be discussed. Urine tests are typically performed at each visit to check for sugar and protein.
5 Benefits of Prenatal Care
1. Mom’s and Baby’s health depends on it. While most pregnancies proceed normally, (after all, women’s bodies were designed to be pregnant and give birth), prenatal visits can detect potential health concerns and pregnancy complications, such as anemia, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, or pre-eclampsia. These are best managed when caught early.
2. Receive accurate nutritional information. Your diet may have to go through some changes in order to meet the nutritional needs of your baby. You will be given specific information about the recommended daily intake for the next nine months, including what you should not eat. Some of the most common foods, like lunch meats and hot dogs, will have to be avoided or thoroughly heated before consuming. Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy doesn’t mean you get to eat for two (sorry!). In fact, for a single baby you only need about 300 extra calories per day. All of this information – and more – will be provided at your prenatal appointments.
3. Monitor baby’s development. Your baby’s growth is a major indicator of how well he or she is doing. Growth is measured by palpating, or feeling, for the top of the uterus and then measuring from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus. Fetal heart rate is also obtained at every visit. Modern technology will assist as well. Ultrasounds will be strategically timed to verify your baby’s development and can identify gender.
4. Schedule appropriate testing. Depending on your age, medical history, and family history certain tests may be recommended. For example, genetic screening can be obtained by blood work to look for genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome. This helps your care team have more information and be best prepared at delivery. Other tests will be to determine your blood type and if you would need Rhogam to prevent possible complications. Other testing will be matched to your specific needs based on medical history.
5. Learn about pregnancy, labor and delivery. Prenatal visits offer you the chance to discuss labor and delivery, potential scenarios, questions and concerns with your doctor. This includes learning about the risks and benefits of every intervention or treatment available. This information will help you and your partner develop a birthing plan that is the right fit.
By Jessica Kennedy, DO
Family Practice Provider
Adair County Health System
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