Prenatal Care Q & A
What is Prenatal Care?
Prenatal care is preventive healthcare for pregnant women and their unborn child. Prenatal care treats and prevents any potential issues or health problems that can arise during pregnancy. It also encourages healthy behavior choices to benefit the mother and child to keeping both healthy. Regular appointments enable doctors to spot health issues and monitor the wellbeing and development of both mother and baby throughout the pregnancy. Early detection of an issue allows for early treatment, which leads to better health overall. There are also a variety of tests and screenings that are carried out to ensure the health and development of the baby throughout gestation.
What Happens During a Prenatal Check-Up?
The first visit will be longer than follow-up visits. The doctor performs a complete physical, asks about the mother’s personal and family health histories. The doctor will order blood and urine samples and checks your height, weight and blood pressure. The doctor will also calculate your due date and answer any questions you have about pregnancy. Expectant mothers follow a regular schedule of follow-up visits throughout pregnancy, increasing in frequency as the due date approaches. Later visits include some additional screenings and the doctor will monitor your blood pressure, weight gain, abdominal circumference growth, and the baby’s heart rate.
What Are the Prenatal Screenings?
There are a wide variety of tests available to monitor the development of a fetus and mother-to-be and to check for any developmental or gestational health issues. Some screenings are routine and all expectant mothers should have them. These include:
- Group B Strep
- Hepatitis B
- HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases
- Pap Exam
Genetic screening is also available for issues such as, but not limited to sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and Tay-Sachs disease. These tests are not required, but depending on the health history of the mother, the doctor may recommend some of them to check the health of the baby. These additional tests are usually recommended to higher risk mothers, who may include those:
- Over the age of 35
- Have had premature babies in the past
- Have a genetic disorder or a family history of a disorder
- Have a medical condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, seizure disorder or an autoimmune disorder
- Have had miscarriages in the past
- Have had gestational diabetes or preeclampsia in previous pregnancies