Prenatal care is the comprehensive care that women receive throughout their pregnancy. It is an important part of making sure that the mother and baby areas healthy as possible. Regular prenatal visits gives the mother a chance toask questions, be informed about the pregnancy, and also allows the doctor to keep a close watch on the progress of the fetus throughput the pregnancy. Women who begin prenatal care early in their pregnancies have better pregnancyoutcomes.
Most pregnancies proceed normally, but there are some risks. Assessing theserisks is an essential part of prenatal care. Prenatal care is not just medical care. It includes childbirth education, counseling, and providing support for the family. Prenatal care includes periodic regular visits to the doctor,good nutrition, regular physical activity, awareness and monitoring of the warning signs, and avoidance of unhealthy substances.
The first prenatal visit will be longer and more involved than later visits.During the first prenatal visit, the pregnancy is confirmed through a urine test and pelvic exam. The pelvic exam will help the doctor decide if the uterus is the right size and pinpoint the baby's due date, which is estimated fromthe date of the last missed period. The doctor will also be able to determine if there are any problems with the vagina and cervix and if the pelvis is large enough to get through a normal delivery. In addition to this, a thoroughbreast examination is conducted and height, weight, and blood pressure are recorded. A urine sample is collected which will be tested for sugar, protein,infection, and kidney problems. Blood is drawn in order to check the blood group, anemia, and the presence of rubella and hepatitis B antibodies. Laboratory tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted diseases will also be performed.
After the first visit, the pregnant woman will return once a month during thefirst 6 months of pregnancy. During the 7th and 8th months, visits will be scheduled every 2 weeks, and after that every week until delivery. During these visits weight, blood pressure, and urine will be checked. The abdomen willbe examined for growth of the uterus, the baby's size, position, and heart beat. These examinations will help to ensure that the pregnancy is progressingnormally. Ultrasound scans may be done to asses fetal growth and development,location of placenta, and amount of amniotic fluid.
In certain cases, a special test known as "chorionic villus sampling" may beperformed in the first 12 weeks if there is any risk of certain genetic disorders being passed on to the fetus. Amniocentesis may be carried out on womenover the age of 35 to detect any possible abnormalities such as Down syndrome, spina bifida in the fetus.
During pregnancy, women should certain substances that could harm the developing fetus. These substances are alcohol, cigarette smoking and other tobaccouse, drug use, x-rays, lead, and common over the counter medications. Women should consult with their health care provider before taking any prescriptionor non-prescription medications.
Pregnant women should eat a balanced nutritional diet and increase their caloric intake to meet the needs of the developing fetus and their changing bodies. Good nutrition during pregnancy depends on eating a variety of wholesome foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. It is recommended that pregnant women and women who wish to become pregnant should take a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid and other essential vitamins and minerals. Pregnantwomen should also eat foods that are rich in protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid. Eating healthfully during pregnancy is one of the most important things that women can do to ensure the normal development and growth of the developing fetus. It can also help to prevent prematurity and low birthweight. For the mother, good nutrition helps to prevent anemia, infection, difficult labor and poor post-partum healing.
A healthy woman with low risk pregnancy can exercise safely throughout theirpregnancies. Moderate exercise is considered to be beneficial for most pregnant women as it helps to prevent constipation, varicose veins, relieves backaches, prepares the body for childbirth and maintains overall physical fitness.
For most women, pregnancy is a normal and happy event. The best thing a womancan do for herself is to eat a balance diet, cut out alcohol, smoking, drugsand get enough exercise. Most importantly, a complete prenatal program can help a woman to have the safest and healthiest pregnancy possible. Some womenfeel prenatal care costs too much and they cannot afford it. However, many programs are available for pregnant women who have little or no money for care.The county department can help the women find clinics if they need help finding affordable care.