Prenatal Care: An Essential Guide

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Pregnancy can be both an exciting and scary journey for any woman. With so many people telling you what to avoid, what to eat, when to kick back, and when to hustle, you can easily get lost on what to do.   

The important thing is to enjoy this journey with your little one and reach its end without much apprehension and worry.  

This post will explore the basics of prenatal care: what it involves, why it’s essential, and when to begin receiving help from professionals. It won’t cover every single case, but it should give you a broad idea of what to expect to keep your pregnancy free of confusion and avoid crises.

First, let’s start with the definition.

What Is Prenatal Care?

Prenatal care is the medical attention received by a woman during her pregnancy. This ensures that the mother and the developing baby in her womb are healthy and safe. A huge chunk of it involves addressing potential complications or risks that may arise and providing guidance and support to the mother as they come.  

Prenatal care entails a series of checkups with a healthcare provider, particularly an obstetrician. This care practitioner may order a series of tests, physical exams, and ultrasounds at different stages of the pregnancy to better grasp the mother and baby’s condition.  

Each checkup is tracked using a baby book or journal, making monitoring more manageable. It also allows you to ask whatever you want to know. It’s best that before you go to your doctor, you list all your questions, so you remember them.

Your doctor will do their best to answer all of them, however trivial you may think they are. Questions like ‘is acetaminophen safe for pregnancy?’ or ‘how can I tell when I should go to the hospital?’ are things you should discuss. You may also ask other common questions, like whether it’s safe to have sex during pregnancy or if you can drink coffee or tea.

Why Is Prenatal Care Important?

Every expecting mother’s goal is to have a safe, healthy delivery. The thing is that the process of pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on a woman’s body. So, they must receive as much assistance as possible to avoid serious medical issues.

For example, some women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. It’s a condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels during pregnancy. When your doctor sees you have a potential risk for this, you will be advised to make some dietary changes, increase your physical activity, or use pregnancy-approved medications. It will go away on its own after the baby has been delivered. But if not addressed, it can lead to severe complications. 

Another reason this is important is to help monitor the growth of your baby. Ultrasounds can show if your baby has the right weight and if it’s positioned correctly. If you want to know the baby’s gender, you can request that from your doctor within 18 to 22 weeks.

What Does Prenatal Care Involve? 

That varies depending on the healthcare provider and on your needs. But it typically involves the following: 

  • Regular Checkups  

Beginning around 8-12 weeks after conception, you’ll meet with your healthcare provider to discuss your and your baby’s health and answer any questions. Though the frequency of visits differs for each case, they usually go this way:  

  • Every four weeks until 28 weeks of pregnancy 
  • Every two weeks from 28 to 36 weeks of pregnancy 
  • Every week from 36 weeks until delivery 
  • Ultrasounds 

As previously mentioned, ultrasounds are performed at various points during pregnancy. These include: 

  • Dating ultrasound:

    Between 8-14 weeks to determine the date of delivery and check the baby’s heartbeat

  • Anatomy ultrasound:

    Between 18-22 weeks to evaluate the baby’s organs to check for any abnormalities and the baby’s gender

Your doctor may request more ultrasounds, depending on your pregnancy situation. 

  • Blood Tests

These provide an in-depth analysis of your condition. Blood tests are vital for catching problems like gestational diabetes, anemia, or infections. In turn, this helps your doctor work on addressing them to prevent serious harm to you and your baby.

  • Prenatal Vitamins 

Your body will change drastically to meet the needs of your developing baby. This will take a lot out of you, so you must take vitamins and supplements like folic acid, calcium, and iron. This reduces the risk of nutritional deficiencies, which are detrimental to you and your baby.

  • Education And Counselling 

New mothers will have many questions they want to be answered. Healthcare providers gladly offer education and counseling on various topics, including nutrition, childbirth options, exercise, postpartum depression, breastfeeding, and home preparations.

  • Screening Tests 

Even inside your womb, you can determine if your baby is developing as expected. Some tests can be done to identify any potential genetic or chromosomal abnormalities. These include Down syndrome, trisomy 18, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, and thalassemia. Knowing this lets you know who to work with to improve your baby’s well-being as they grow. 

When Should Prenatal Care Begin?

A woman usually misses their period within 8 to 12 weeks after conception. Prenatal care should start at this time. If you find developing a proper prenatal care routine challenging, you can contact your doctor to refer you to professionals who can aid you.

Get The Care You And Your Baby Deserve

Comprehensive prenatal care can ensure a healthy pregnancy and successful childbirth. Every visit with your doctor ensures you’re doing your best to keep yourself and your baby safe. 

If you’re getting ready for a baby, contact your trusted healthcare provider and start planning today.