Everything You Need to Know About Prenatal Care
Getting pregnant is so exciting but knowing how to take care of yourself while pregnant can be stressful for some. This is mostly because many people aren’t sure what the best care practices are when it comes to prenatal care. Sometimes you may think you’re doing something good for you and the baby where it actually may be harmful.
Prenatal care is so much more than just checking in with your doctor’s office throughout your terms. A lot of women also think that they can’t exercise but in reality, exercise can be really helpful during pregnancy for a lot of different reasons. Here is everything you need to know about prenatal care.
What is Prenatal Care?
Prenatal care includes all the doctor’s visits and checkups that will help ensure both you and the baby are healthy. Prenatal care also includes all of the individual things you can do for yourself such as eating healthy, exercising, sleeping well, vitamins, and more! Most importantly this is a chance for doctors to explain to you the details and what to expect of going into labor.
Here is a more comprehensive list of prenatal care in terms of the doctor:
When you discover you're pregnant a bunch of routine checkups and testing needs to be done with your doctor. Often bloodwork to make sure everything is healthy as well as confirm the pregnancy is done at various different checkups. Here are some of the main things to expect at your check-up.
There is a lot that can be determined by blood tests but some of the more important information factors that a doctor wants to confirm are your blood type in case of need for blood transfusion and whether you run the risk of anemia. This is when you have low iron and can’t afford to lose much blood, especially during pregnancy.
Not only is this a special moment to see the baby and meet them for the first time but it’s also a way that the doctor measures the amniotic fluid in your amniotic sac. Because the amniotic fluid plays such a big role in development and nutrition.
Why Is Prenatal Care Important?
Prenatal care is incredibly important because a healthy mother and pregnancy give the baby the best chance to have a healthy birth and life. Prenatal care constantly checks the health of both the mother and the fetus to ensure everyone is fine. Prenatal visits help with all of the following and more.
Being over or underweight as the mother can be an issue for the baby as they are not getting enough nutrients or the delivery may have complications. Prenatal care can help address and monitor weight issues.
This is all the advice that the doctor will give you in terms of healthy eating and exercise as well as avoiding harmful chemicals that can sometimes be found in the beauty industry and household cleaning supplies. Exposure to you means exposure to the baby. In terms of exercise, the terms are likely to change and develop as you approach the due date.
Control Existing Conditions
Sometimes a mother will have a condition that is not ideal for the baby. However, sometimes if something like blood pressure is controlled with safe medication that is not harmful to the baby, the doctor can help protect the baby and the mother from any complications. Going through a medication checklist, in general, is important as certain prescribed and over-the-counter drugs are not recommended while pregnant.
Prenatal Care Benefits
There are tons of benefits to having prenatal care as it sets you and your baby up in the best possible position for the safest and healthiest pregnancy. Below is a list that includes but is not limited to all the great benefits you can get from prenatal care.
- Your baby’s and your health is the number one benefit you can get from having prenatal care. This allows you to have a good idea of your due date and constantly check in during the process.
- It allows you to connect with your doctor and develop a relationship. This is important throughout the process of pregnancy and can be even more beneficial if you plan on having more kids. The more the doctor knows about their patients the better they can develop a plan.
- You get the needed immunizations to protect you and your baby from any infections or flu strains that are going to be going around during your pregnancy.
- It gives mothers peace of mind as they develop a plan and know what to expect as far as hormones, tests, and more week by week. Developing a plan for labor and more takes the unknown out of the question.
When to Start Having Prenatal Care Appointments
Your first prenatal visit is likely going to fall around 6 weeks or sometime in the second month. This is going to be a very long appointment because many of the initial tests will need to be done to ensure you are starting with a healthy pregnancy.
When you get your first positive result from a pregnancy test you can go ahead and schedule your first appointment. It’s great to schedule as early as you can so that way you can guarantee that you will be seen sometime in the second month with your preferred person.
This also means that you should start your prenatal care immediately. You don’t need to wait for the doctor’s advice on good nutrition and healthy habits. You must take care of yourself from the very beginning till the very end of the pregnancy. This means no alcohol, no drugs, no exposure to bad substances.
How Often are Prenatal Visits Needed?
While everyone has a different journey when it comes to how often they would like to and should see their doctor below is a normal timetable and schedule doctors recommend. This is for a healthy pregnancy as a complicated pregnancy may require a lot more visits.
- Weeks 4-28: During this time of your pregnancy your doctor will likely recommend coming in once a month for a scheduled prenatal visit.
- Weeks 28-36: Your visits will double the rate as now your doctor will likely have you come in twice a month or bi-weekly as you are further along in your pregnancy.
- Weeks 36-40: During the absolute end of your pregnancy you will be coming in once a week to see your doctor as your due date is here.
The number of frequent visits per grouping may increase with twins or any kind of multiples to make sure that the amniotic sac and fluid are at the appropriate levels for development and growth.
What to Expect at Prenatal Care Visits
Everything mentioned above is what you can expect at your prenatal care visits. The frequency of which you go increases as you approach your due date because the baby is developing quickly. This allows the doctor to make sure that everything is working out as planned. Any adjustments in the plan, as there usually are some, will be made with your doctor during these visits.
Some of the more common expectations at visits can be followed along here.
- 6-12 weeks: This is where all the testing begins as mentioned. Anything that needs to be monitored will be set up for a baseline to compare throughout the pregnancy.
- 12-16 weeks: This appointment will be less testing than the first one. Likely blood pressure, as well as weight checks and urine screening, will occur.
- 18-22 weeks: This is where the fundal height and fetal heart tones are documented. If an ultrasound hasn’t been done it will be done now.
- 22-26 weeks: Routine checkup with any additional tests being ordered if necessary. Check for body changes as the mother will be undergoing a lot of these during this time.
- 26-30 weeks: This appointment will likely include screening for diabetes.
- 28-32 weeks: Measuring the fundal height and fetal heart tones will be done at every visit from here on out.
- 32-36 weeks: At the end of this stage the doctor will start doing Cervical checks to see if the baby is in a position that is getting ready for labor.
- 36-40 weeks: Final decisions and checkups during this period to ensure everyone is ready for delivery.
Prenatal Care FAQs
There is a lot of information that goes with prenatal care. While most of that will be individual between your doctor and you there are some common questions that doctors frequently get among expecting mothers. Here are some of those very questions below.
What kind of prenatal vitamins should I be taking?
Your doctor will have an individual answer for you based on all the testing that you have been doing. However, a good general rule of thumb is to increase your folic acid intake through prenatal care vitamins. In general, vitamins help the mother stay healthy through a relatively taxing time on her body. Vitamins are the only thing that is a part of prenatal care. Eating right as well as drinking plenty of fluids is important for you and the baby.
What if I don’t love the doctor I am seeing?
Working with a doctor pre-pregnancy is great because you know you like them. Often a woman will rely on her OB-GYN to either be the doctor themselves or recommend a doctor for delivery. If you have a change of heart you can always change your doctors as long as it is early enough. The reason why it’s great to stay with a doctor you know is that they know your medical history best and will have a better idea of what goes on with you. Sometimes it is too late to change to some doctors.
Can I be refused to be seen?
To go off the last question, an OB-GYN or doctor can refuse to take you on as a client if you are too far along. This is not a personal issue. What happens is that a doctor without knowing your medical history can feel liable because of their lack of understanding of the progression of pregnancy. Another reason a doctor may not be able to see you is because of an insurance change or if you are changing doctors they simply don’t take that insurance. These are more reasons why staying with a doctor from the beginning is a good idea.
Let Them Do the Work
As a pregnant mother, it may feel like you already need to control a lot to make sure the best is done for your baby. This is natural. The great thing about prenatal care is that your trusted doctor that you feel comfortable with can do all the work for you. The best part of prenatal visits is that they can constantly go over the plan and track your progress so you don’t have to stress about either.
Your doctor should be able to recommend to you what are some great vitamins and prenatal care tips. Having said that, you don’t need to wait until 6-8 weeks to start being healthy. You should start acting pregnant the second you find out to ensure the baby is healthy and safe. This means no drinking, smoking, or drug use. It’s also good to refrain from chemicals found in beauty products and household cleaning supplies. This is something that your doctor can reaffirm for you when you go in for the first time or even over the phone as you schedule your first appointment.
Having the information is great because you know what to expect but no reason to take notes or feel like you have to remember everything. That’s what your doctor is there for. To help you out and bring home a healthy and happy baby!