All women expecting a baby need prenatal care. Prenatal care can be provided by a doctor, midwife or other health care professional.

The progress of a pregnancy and to identify potential problems before they become serious for either mom or baby is the reason you need prenatal care. You as the mother will benefit from prenatal care.

Women who receive appropriate prenatal care generally have healthier babies and are less likely to deliver prematurely. The chance of having serious problems related to pregnancy is also decreased with appropriate prenatal care.

What should you expect during prenatal visits?

• You should expect to learn about pregnancy
• Your health care provider should monitor medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes
• Your health care provider should administer tests for problems with the baby
• You should receive tests for health problems such as gestational diabetes
• Your health care provider may refer you to other services such as pregnancy/childbirth support groups, the WIC program or childbirth education classes

As soon as you suspect you are pregnant you should call a health care provider to set up appointments to confirm your pregnancy and/or to find out when you should come in for your prenatal care appointments. Be sure to keep all health care appointments during your pregnancy even if you are feeling fine. Make getting prenatal care a priority.

The best time to see your health care provider is actually before you become pregnant to give your health care provider a chance to get to know you and the present status of your health. These visits can address concerns and/or issues before you become pregnant.

A typical prenatal care schedule for a low-risk pregnancy that is normally progressing includes:

• Weeks 4 to 28: 1 visit per month (every 4 weeks)
• Weeks 28 to 36: 2 visits per month (every 2 to 3 weeks)
• Weeks 36 to birth: 1 visit per week

If you are a woman with a chronic medical condition or a “high-risk” pregnancy you may have to see your health care provider more often.

During your first prenatal care visit, your health care provider will most likely ask you a lot of questions. Have available the answers to the following questions for your first visit:

• Status of your health, your partner’s health and the health of your close family members (do not be concerned if you do not know all these answers)
• Do you have any medical problems?
• What kind of medications are you taking?

In addition, your health care provider will:

• Do a physical exam and a pelvic (internal) exam
• Weigh you
• Check your blood pressure
• Check a urine sample for infection
• Do some blood tests to check for anemia and see if you have had certain kinds of infections
• You will be asked if you want a test for HIV
• Do a pap smear to check for cervical cancer and other tests for vaginal infections
• Figure out your due date; most babies are born within two weeks before or after a due date
• Prescribe prenatal vitamins with folic acid

Your first prenatal visit will be the longest. During later prenatal visits you can expect your provider to:

• Weigh you
• Check your blood pressure
• Measure your belly
• Check your hands, feet and face for swelling
• Listen for the baby’s heartbeat (after the 12th week of pregnancy)
• Do any tests that are needed such as blood tests or ultrasound
• Ask you if you have any questions or concerns. If you have questions, it is a good idea to write them down in a list format so you do not forget at the time of the visit

Everything you tell your health care provider will be held in confidence. This means your health care provider cannot tell anyone else what you say without your permission. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to talk about issues that might be embarrassing. You need to tell your health care provider if you smoke, drink alcohol or take any drugs. It is safe to tell your health care provider if your partner hurts you or if you are afraid of your partner.

Researchers do not know exactly why women who get early and regular prenatal care have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies. Experts agree it does work. Make prenatal care a priority during your pregnancy for the sake of yourself and your baby.

A dental check-up early in pregnancy is also a good idea to help your mouth remain healthy. Your dentist may even recommend more checks during pregnancy.

Source: March of Dimes Association

Disclaimer: *This article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any kind of a health problem. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult with your health care provider about any kind of a health problem and especially before beginning any kind of an exercise routine.

This article is FREE to publish with the resource box. Article written 5-2007.

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