Prenatal Care—Why is it Important?

Pregnancy is not just a happy time for you and your family, but one where your body is going through a lot of changes as well. Prenatal care is tailored healthcare that is provided to pregnant women for a healthy pregnancy, labor, and child. The main goal of prenatal care is to provide pregnant women with regular checkups to ensure that both the expectant mother and baby are healthy and that the pregnancy progresses normally. Prenatal care can be critical, especially if the pregnancy occurs after the age of 35.

These checkups are a great opportunity for the expectant mother and her family to ask all their questions to the doctor and develop a relationship with their obstetrician/ gynaecologist (OB/ GYN). This eases apprehensions and makes you more comfortable and confident going into labor.

What should you expect in your prenatal checkups?

Your prenatal care should begin as soon as you suspect that you might be pregnant. Meet your OB/ GYN to confirm and begin your check-up appointments as early as possible.

During your prenatal visits your OB/ GYN will:

  • Ask if you have any questions, concerns, pre-existing issues, and other problems that might affect the pregnancy.
  • Discuss all the changes that your body is experiencing during your pregnancy.
  • Assess and discuss the growth and development of your baby.
  • Review any medications that you might be taking.
  • Monitor your baby’s heartbeat (once your pregnancy has reached at least 11-12 weeks).
  • Discuss the results of any tests that you might have to undergo.
  • Ensure that your personalised plan for your pregnancy care is being followed properly.

What are the benefits of prenatal care?

The following are 7 benefits that prenatal care holds for expectant mothers:

1. Maintain good health for yourself and your baby: It is important to maintain good health not just for yourself, but also for your child. Babies whose mothers have not had any prenatal care are at a greater risk of being born with low birth weight. A low birth weight makes a baby more susceptible to an early death. It is also important to reduce stress during pregnancy to prevent the adverse effects of stress on the health of the child.

2. Receive proper nutritional information and advice: Your pregnancy mandates that your diet meets certain requirements for the optimal health of your baby. Your OB/ GYN will be giving you detailed information about the recommended dietary intake of healthy foods for the course of the pregnancy—especially regarding what not to eat. It is important for the overall health of your child that you follow these recommendations carefully. Your doctor’s instructions will clarify many doubts and myths—contrary to a popular belief, being an expectant mother does not mean that you eat for two; you only require an additional 300 calories a day to provide adequately for a single baby.

3. Monitor the baby’s development: Your baby’s growth over time is a key indicator of his or her health. Your OB/ GYN will routinely measure your belly to monitor how well your baby is growing. Ultrasounds will also be scheduled to verify your child’s development and detect any issues early.

4. Reduce the risk of pregnancy complications: Prenatal care can help ensure safe childbirth and avoid pregnancy complications that are hard to detect without medical supervision. Though women’s bodies possess the natural function to give birth, prenatal checkups will help catch potential health concerns early, such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, cervical insufficiency, foetal growth restriction, and anaemia, that can complicate the pregnancy.

5. Reduce the baby’s risk for complications: Your OB/ GYN will give you detailed instructions about the risks of smoking and alcohol consumption during your pregnancy. Intake of tobacco and alcohol during pregnancy has shown to increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Alcohol, in addition, increases the risk of foetal disorders such as facial and bone deformities, intellectual disability, poor memory, poor coordination, and issues with the heart and kidneys.

6. Undergo important testing: Your OB/ GYN will schedule prenatal tests for you on the basis of your age, medical and family history, and stage of pregnancy to assess pregnancy-related risks to you and check your baby’s health. Prenatal tests can detect risks such as miscarriage, molar pregnancy, and maternal death for the expectant mother. Testing of the foetus can verify growth-markers such as the maturity of the baby’s lungs and detect foetal malformations such as clenched fists, club foot, and spina bifida. Tests done on the amniotic fluid (amniocentesis) can help detect infections or genetic abnormalities such as Down Syndrome. These tests can be important especially in cases such as Rh sensitisation, where the baby has a different blood type than the mother.

7. Learn about labor and delivery: Prenatal visits to your OB/ GYN will get you important information about labor and help you decide what form of delivery procedure you want to go through. Based on the advice and the discussions you have with your doctor, your delivery plan can be made. This plan includes possible scenarios, procedures, and the benefits and risks of every intervention and treatment that will be available you.

Most pregnancies lead to positive outcomes, both for the mother and child. However, it is difficult to identify and mitigate pregnancy risks by yourself. Prenatal care bridges this uncertainty by providing healthcare specific to your pregnancy.

Pregnancy involves the health of more than one life. For the most compassionate and expert care for your baby and you, book an appointment with our OB/ GYN specialists at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Sagar Hospitals.

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