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Understanding Prenatal Care

Every pregnant woman has a “what to expect when you’re expecting” moment in which she starts doing research to ensure that she’s educated on what to expect going forward. If you can relate, that’s likely why you’ve found this blog! Prenatal care is one of those topics that most women aren’t familiar with until they start doing some research or have talked to their health care provider.

Let’s take a look at what prenatal care is and why it’s important for you as an expectant mother!

Prenatal Care

All the checkups and screening tests you have to ensure you and baby are doing well during pregnancy fall under the umbrella of prenatal care. These are all in an effort to catch red flags ahead of time (if there are any) and to ensure optimal health for you and baby.

Prenatal care also includes education and counseling for you as you get ready for baby’s birth, so that you can feel prepared and at peace. Your doctor will check in with you to talk you through any lifestyle changes you may need to make, suggest screening tests you might need, and things to expect for the upcoming labor and delivery of your baby.

Prenatal Checkups

Getting regular checkups with your doctors is extremely important during pregnancy. Their care can keep you and baby healthy while keeping an eye on any potential problems you may experience and dealing with them.

When you are pregnant, you’ll be placed on routine checkups and you can expect the following:

  • Monthly checkups for week four through week 28
  • Checkups twice a month for week 28 through week 36
  • Weekly after week 36 until baby is born (at which point postnatal care begins)

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you can expect even more check ups because your doctor will want to keep a close eye on how you and baby are progressing.

You can expect the following during your prenatal checkups:

  • Calculation of your due date
  • A physical exam
  • A pap test if you are due for one
  • Blood draws for lab tests
  • Cervical exams as you get closer to your due date
  • Lifestyle, health, and relationship questions
  • Monitoring of your blood pressure and weight
  • Monitoring of baby’s heart rate, movement and overall growth

Keeping every appointment is important, so make sure to make those a priority!

Prenatal Tests

A lot of tests are done during your pregnancy to make sure that all variables are accounted for, including:

  • Your blood type and Rh factor
  • Screening for sexually transmitted infections
  • Immunity to rubella and chickenpox
  • Ultrasound exam: Looks for signs of problems with baby’s organs or other systems, confirms the age of the fetus, and can tell the sex of your baby
  • Screening for gestational diabetes
  • Screening for anemia
  • Group B Streptococcus: This test, done at 36 weeks, looks for vaginal bacteria that can cause infections in newborns, including pneumonia
  • Urine Tests: Can identify health problems such as UTIs, diabetes, and preeclampsia

Additional testing is available to check on the health of your pregnancy. This includes:

  • The MaterniT screening test can be done to check for a normal fetal chromosome number and also for gender
  • First trimester screen, which involves a test of mom’s blood and an ultrasound to help identify pregnancies at higher risk for genetic conditions like Down’s syndrome, open neural tube defects, and even things like fetal growth restriction and preeclampsia. These tests are not definitive.
  • Amniocentesis and Chorionic villus sampling: definitive, but invasive tests that check for an abnormal number of chromosomes and an array of genetic abnormalities.
  • Nonstress Test: monitoring of the fetal heartbeat for 20 min at a time can be done for high risk pregnancies. This can reveal signs of fetal distress (if there are any)
  • Biophysical Profile (BPP): can also be done to monitor your baby’s overall health and helps determine of the baby should be delivered early.

We encourage you to ask questions about any tests or test results you may have, especially if that will help you to cope with any fears or worries you may have.

Choosing a Prenatal Care Provider

Since you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time going to prenatal checkups, you’ll want to make sure you’ve chosen a prenatal care provider you can trust. Here are some things to look for in a prenatal care provider:

  • They have a good reputation
  • They have a personality and bedside manner you like
  • They listen to and respect you and your choices
  • They can deliver your baby where you’d like to give birth
  • They are able and willing to get you information and support you so you can make informed choices
  • They have your best in mind

There are different types of health care providers that care for expectant mothers, including:

  • Obstetricians (OBs): Specialize in caring for pregnant women and in delivering their babies. They deal with natural births and cesarean deliveries. They are especially important during high-risk pregnancies and deliveries.
  • Family Doctors: Care for mothers and their whole family through every stage of their life. Many families choose to stay with the same family doctor from birth to adulthood when possible. They can care for mothers during pregnancy and delivery, but most cannot perform cesarean deliveries.
  • Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPM): Trained to provide excellent pregnancy and postpartum care for mothers and babies. They are a great choice for low-risk pregnancies and deliveries. They are educated in both nursing and midwifery and can help a mother give birth in a hospital, birthing center, or at home.

At OGA, we have some of the best health care providers in the state ready to provide you with the care you and baby need for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Schedule an appointment with us to start receiving care today and learn more about pregnancy health!