Prenatal care is the care that is received during pregnancy to keep you and your baby healthy and can be provided by an obstetrician. Pregnant women must schedule a visit to their health care provider as soon as they learn they are pregnant.
The first stage of prenatal care is the preconception stage care, which is an early stage of prenatal care. This is the stage at which you are planning a baby, and starts much before you actually conceive.
The first examination after you conceive would include a physical exam, urine test, an optional blood test and weight checks. Depending upon the stage of pregnancy, some imaging or ultrasound tests may be done.
Your prenatal visits will also allow you to discuss your health, healthy dos and don’ts, preparing for the baby’s birth and any other questions you may have regarding the pregnancy or newborn’s arrival.
A good prenatal care routine can prevent many complications that may arise during the pregnancy and will prepare women for the next stage of life. With a healthy diet, exercise and medication, as advised by your health experts, chances of complications decline significantly.
Regular prenatal care can reduce the risks of complications in pregnancy. Moreover, health experts know how to control existing conditions like blood pressure, thyroid or diabetes, which could cause serious pregnancy complications if kept untreated.
Your doctor will also be able to guide you on the medications you are already taking. For example, chances are your anti-acne medication might have a composition that is harmful to the developing fetus. It is imperative to have a thorough discussion about all health conditions that you may currently have or have had in the past.
Prenatal care can also reduce the risk of infant birth complications. Health care experts will warn you against the intake of tobacco, smoke, alcohol and certain medications during pregnancy.
With prenatal counseling, you will learn to balance your diet with appropriate protein, calcium, iron, mineral and vitamin substitutes. It is very important to consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid to reduce neural tube defects in infants.
In addition to this, many other vitamins and minerals are required by pregnant women to develop their fetus. Your health expert will be helpful in prescribing a prenatal supplement as per your daily diet requirements in your prenatal care checkup.
The expert at the prenatal care session may ask you to take some prenatal tests like chronic villus sampling, cystic fibrosis carrier screening or amniocentesis to ensure your baby is growing well.
Many prenatal care centers also provide educational classes to help understand what to expect and get ready for the baby’s arrival. The classes include, understanding your baby’s growth in the womb, what to expect during labor, caring for self and baby post-birth, breastfeeding, etc.
How Often Should You Go for Prenatal Checkups?
In the first trimester, aim to meet the expert at least once a month to discuss weight gain, blood pressure, pulse rates and for some basic scans.
In the second trimester, you may continue with the same frequency unless the heath care professional feels she needs to see you more often. At this time, there may be a requirement for advanced ultrasound testing.
For the third trimester, plan to meet your doctor once every week. Regular prenatal visits will help you bond with the doctor and make the labor and delivery process less stressful.
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