Why Antenatal Care During Your Pregnancy is Important?
Antenatal care, also known as ‘pregnancy care’ or ‘maternity care’ or ‘prenatal care’, is the healthcare, support and advice you receive from healthcare professionals, to ensure good health of you and your unborn baby throughout your pregnancy. It is a form of preventive healthcare, where women are taught by skilled health personnel about healthy behaviors during pregnancy, warning signs during pregnancy and childbirth, and also receive emotional, psychological and social support during their pregnancy period, which can often get quite stressful.
Importance of antenatal care
- Protects health of pregnant women and their unborn child
- Reduces the risk of pregnancy complications
- Reduces the baby’s risk of complications
- Provides regular monitoring and screening to detect and manage early complications such hypertension and pregnancy-related diabetes
- Provides appropriate nutritional advice for growth and development of your baby
- Screening for specific conditions and diseases which can have a negative impact on pregnancy
- Provides awareness on recognizing danger signs for pregnant women and creates a complication readiness plan.
Types of antenatal care during each trimester
1st Trimester Visit
It is important to schedule for your first prenatal/antenatal appointment as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed. Prenatal care during your first trimester includes, medical history, physical examination, blood tests and lifestyle recommendations.
Your medical history will include questions about the following:
- Previous pregnancies, menstrual health/menstrual cycle, and gynecological history
- Personal medical history
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Usage of all medications/drugs including over-the counter medications and other supplements
- Lifestyle habits, including consumption of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine
- Travel history to areas where some infectious diseases are common (malaria, zika virus, tuberculosis or other diseases).
Estimation of due date
Your estimated due date is not the exact date on which you will deliver your baby but is simply a date when you will be 40 weeks pregnant. Few women may still deliver their babies on the given due date. Estimation of due date allows your doctor to monitor your pregnancy and growth of the baby, and schedule tests accordingly.
Your doctor will calculate your estimated due date using the beginning date of your last period. 40 weeks from the first day of your last period will be your due date.
Physical examination includes the following:
- Assessment of blood pressure
- Measurement of body weight and height
- Calculation of body mass index to recommend healthy weight gain for pregnancy
- Examination of breast and pelvis
- Examination of heart, lungs and thyroid.
Blood tests: Blood tests are done to check for your blood type, to assess your hemoglobin levels, to check your immunity against specific infections such as chickenpox and rubella, and to detect your exposure to other infections such as HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis etc.
Screening for abnormalities in baby’s health
Prenatal screening tests can help to detect any abnormalities in your unborn baby. Some of these tests include:
- Prenatal genetic testing
- Blood tests for genetic abnormalities
Lifestyle issues and recommendations
- Your doctor will provide you with appropriate dietary/nutritional advice.
- You will be prescribed with necessary vitamin supplements required during pregnancy. These are known as prenatal vitamins.
- Your doctor will discuss with you about exercise recommendations, sex, protection against infections (vaccinations), dental care/dental visits and travel during pregnancy.
- You will also be instructed to stop using medications which can be harmful for your baby and you during pregnancy.
- If you smoke or drink alcohol, your doctor will provide you suggestions for ways to quit.
During the first trimester, prenatal visits are scheduled every 4 weeks.
2nd Trimester Visit
Your prenatal care during the second trimester involves assessment of your baby’s growth along with reviewing your health parameters as done in the first trimester.
Your second trimester prenatal visit may include the following:
- Tracking of baby’s growth: The distance between your pubic bone and top region of your uterus is measured to determine your baby’s growth.
- Identifying baby’s heartbeat: During the second trimester you may be able to appreciate your baby’s heartbeat through an instrument called the Doppler instrument.
- Assessment of baby’s movements: Your doctor will discuss with you about time when you will most likely begin to notice kicks or flutters.
Other tests during the second trimester may include:
- Blood tests to detect genetic or chromosomal abnormalities. At this stage other blood tests are also carried out to check for mother’s blood count, iron level, blood sugar levels for diabetes screening.
- An ultrasound to assess images of the baby in the uterus.
3rd Trimester Visit
Prenatal care during the third trimester mainly involves assessment of the baby’s position along with repeated frequent routine health checks for the mother.
Review and repeated health checks
- Your doctor will assess for signs and symptom of contractions.
- Routine assessment of weight gain, blood pressure of mother.
- Assessment of baby’s movements and heartbeat.
Assessment of baby’s position
During the end of pregnancy, the baby’s position is assessed through physical examination and ultrasound. The best position for the baby to be in is the anterior position, where the head is facing downwards in the pelvis and the head will be facing towards the mother’s belly.
If the baby is not positioned this way, your doctor will discuss procedures to physically manipulate the baby to the headfirst position, and if you do not prefer this, you will be prepared for a C-section delivery.
Be sure to discuss all your concerns and questions with your healthcare provider during every visit and let them know how you are feeling. Ensure that you attend all your prenatal check-ups for a healthy and safe pregnancy!
Book an appointment for antenatal check up at out IVF Department
Dr Padmapriya Vivek
MBBS, MS, DRM (Germany)
HOD - Department of IVF, Obstetrics & Gynaecology