Prenatal care is the health care you get while you are pregnant. It includes your checkups and prenatal testing. Prenatal care can help keep you and your baby healthy. It lets your health care provider spot health problems early. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.
Why is prenatal care important?
Prenatal care is an important part of staying healthy during pregnancy.
Your doctor, nurse, or midwife will monitor your future baby’s development and do routine testing to help find and prevent possible problems. These regular checkups are also a great time to learn how to ease any discomfort you may be having, and ask any other questions about your pregnancy and the birth of your future baby and also will give you a schedule for your prenatal visits.
When do I need to start having prenatal care appointments?
You can start getting prenatal care as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
It’s actually best to see a doctor BEFORE you get pregnant, this is sometimes called pre-pregnancy care or preconception planning. But if that’s not possible, just begin prenatal visits as soon as you can.
As soon as you think you’re pregnant, schedule your first prenatal appointment. Set aside ample time for the visit. You and your health care provider have plenty to discuss! You might want to include your partner in the appointment as well.
How often should I see my doctor during pregnancy?
Your doctor will give you a schedule of all the doctor’s visits you should have while pregnant. Most experts suggest you see your doctor:
- About once each month for weeks 4 through 28
- Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36
- Every week from the 37th week until delivery
If you are over 35 years old or your pregnancy is high risk because of health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure, your doctor or midwife will probably want to see you more often. You can also expect to see your healthcare provider more often as your due date gets closer.
What happens during a prenatal visit?
Your health care provider will ask many questions, including details about:
- Your menstrual cycle and gynecological history
- Past pregnancies
- Your personal and family medical history
- Medication use, including prescription and over-the-counter medications or supplements
- Your lifestyle, including your use of tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine
Few women actually give birth on their due dates. Still, establishing your due date or estimated date of delivery is important. An accurate due date allows your health care provider to monitor your baby’s growth and the progress of your pregnancy, as well as schedule certain tests or procedures at the most appropriate time.
Your health care provider will check your weight and height and use this information to calculate your BMI. He or she will use your BMI to determine the recommended weight gain you need for a healthy pregnancy. Will measure your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate and do a complete physical exam. He or she will check for any undiagnosed medical conditions. Will also examine your vagina and the opening to your uterus (cervix). Changes in the cervix and in the size of your uterus can help confirm the stage of your pregnancy. You might need a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer as well, depending on how long it’s been since your last screening.
- Check your blood type
- Measure your hemoglobin
- Check immunity to certain infections
- Detect exposure to other infections
- Screening tests for fetal abnormalities
Your health care provider will discuss the importance of proper nutrition and prenatal vitamins. Your first prenatal visit is a good time to discuss exercise, sex during pregnancy and other lifestyle issues. You might also discuss your work environment and the use of medications during pregnancy.
Other first trimester visits
Subsequent prenatal visits, often scheduled about every four weeks during the first trimester, will probably be shorter than the first. Your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure, and you’ll discuss any concerns.
Near the end of the first trimester, by about nine to 12 weeks of pregnancy, you might be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat with a small device that bounces sound waves off your baby’s heart (Fetal Doppler). You may check online for Fetal Dopplers http://torontek.com/
Remember, your health care provider is there to support you throughout your pregnancy. Your prenatal appointments are an ideal time to discuss any questions or concerns, including things that might be uncomfortable or embarrassing.
Also, find out how to reach your health care provider between appointments. Knowing help is available when you need it can offer precious peace of mind.