Why is Prenatal Care important?
Prenatal care refers to the regular check-ups with your doctor during your pregnancy to ensure that the foetus is developing properly, and is healthy. These doctors, called obstetricians, specialize in female reproductive organs and pregnancy, and use various kinds of tests, including pap smears and ultrasounds, to keep a check on the baby’s growth inside you. Prenatal care helps treat any possible problems in the budding stage so that it does not cause any complications during or after the pregnancy.
A common question that arises among new mothers is ‘When to start prenatal care?’, and the answer is as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. This is an important step as it confirms the pregnancy. Some doctors even recommend prenatal care before the pregnancy which is known as pre-prenatal-care. An expecting mother should visit her doctor every 4 to 6 weeks in the first trimester and more frequently as the due date approaches. If it is a high-risk pregnancy, these medical consultations can be increased.
What does a prenatal exam include?
It usually includes a physical exam, urine test, and a weight test. According to the stage of the pregnancy and risk factor, blood tests and ultrasounds are also conducted.
Prenatal care reduces the risk of pregnancy complications. If you follow a healthy and a safe diet, take care of your body, and make sure you are relaxed and mentally at peace, chances of problems during your pregnancy are significantly lowered. In a prenatal session, the doctor will examine your health very carefully. Common underlying health problems, including hypertension, high blood pressure, and diabetes not only put your health at risk but also reduce the flow of blood to your placenta, reducing your baby’s oxygen supply and consequently, putting its life in danger. Regular check-ups will help your doctor detect these conditions, and monitor and treat them effectively. In prenatal care, the doctor also looks for diseases that can be passed on to the baby from the mother, such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or hepatitis. As you enter your third and final trimester, your doctor may administer vaccinations to build your baby’s immunity to diseases. These vaccinations include the flu shot as well as vaccines for polio and the MMR ( Mumps, Measles, Rubella) vaccine.
Prenatal visits are important as they help the doctor look for and treat any potential birth defects. Common problems include issues with the essential organs such as kidneys, spine or heart. These can if detected early, potentially be treated in utero.
Prenatal care involves your doctor providing you guidance on the right diet for your pregnancy term, and prescribing you any nutritional supplements that may be required. Never self-prescribe anything during your pregnancy as it could have adverse effects on your and the baby’s health. Your doctor can also help clear any fears or doubts you may have regarding pregnancy or childbirth, and acts as a good sounding board for all your concerns.
Prenatal care, today, is not a recommendation, but a necessity.