Once you have become pregnant through your fertility treatments you will need to begin to think about prenatal care. It is important to begin your prenatal care as soon as possible. The prenatal care that you receive during your pregnancy is essential to maintaining both your health and your baby’s health. You may be a little nervous about your prenatal care appointments, but try not to worry. By finding out a little bit about these appointments, you will be able to put your worries to rest and start enjoying your pregnancy!
Why Is Prenatal Care Important?
You may be wondering why there is so much fuss over prenatal care these days. After all, as little as a hundred years ago few women actually received any real type of health care during pregnancy. Well, prenatal care is actually very important to ensure pregnancy health. Studies have shown that women who receive regular prenatal checkups deliver healthier babies. If you see your health care provider regularly, you also decrease your risk for premature labor and other pregnancy complications.
Where To Start?
Before you can make your first prenatal health appointment, you are going to need to decide what kind of practitioner you would like to see. The most commonly used practitioners in the United States are obstetricians and midwives. Both types of practitioners provide quality prenatal care and will help to prepare you for labor and delivery. Depending on your personal preferences, you may be more comfortable with one type of practitioner over the other.
An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Obstetricians are highly qualified and many are able to look after high-risk pregnancies. Women often choose to use obstetricians because they are so well qualified and prepared for any possible complications. Unfortunately, though, most obstetricians are male and some do not allow for women to have much say in labor and delivery.
Midwives are specially trained to help pregnant women through pregnancy, labor, and delivery as well during the postpartum period. Typically women, midwives use traditional methods of labor and delivery combined with modern medical knowledge. Midwives are not doctors, but instead have received on-the-job training from other midwives. Midwives have been around for hundreds of years and are now gaining popularity again in the United States because they allow for a more personal involvement in your pregnancy. They are trained to deal with uncomplicated pregnancies only.
Your First Appointment
Once you have decided on a practitioner, you will need to book your first prenatal health care appointment. During this appointment, your medical history will be taken and you will be given a thorough checkup as well as a number of tests. The first appointment tends to be the longest – it lasts about an hour – but follow-up appointments will be less intense.
Your Medical History
Your health care practitioner will begin the appointment by taking your medical history. She may ask you:
- if you have any serious or chronic illnesses, or if you have undergone surgery
- if you are on any prescription medications .
- if you have had a baby before
- if you drink, smoke, or do recreational drugs
- if you know of any genetic disorders in your family
Your Physical Exam
You will also undergo a thorough physical exam to check on your overall health and wellness. Your health care provider will:
- check your blood pressure
- measure your height and weight
- check your limbs for signs of swelling (edema)
- give you an internal pelvic exam and pap smear to check for infection or cancerous cells
Certain tests need to be performed during your first prenatal appointment. These include a blood test to confirm your pregnancy. It also includes a urinalysis to check your blood sugar and protein levels. This can help to prevent uncontrolled gestational diabetes during pregnancy. You will also be offered an HIV test to prevent passing the virus on to your baby.
Later Prenatal Appointments
You will need to return for more prenatal appointments throughout your pregnancy. Later prenatal appointments may not be as long as your initial session, however, these appointments will still help to examine you for any possible complications. Your weight will be taken at each appointment, in order to determine how your baby is developing. At about 12 weeks your health care provider will listen to your baby’s heart rate using a fetal Doppler machine. Starting around the 20th week of pregnancy, a measurement of your stomach will be taken to track your baby’s growth. Ultrasounds will also be given during some prenatal appointments.
How Often Should You Go?
For your first 28 weeks of pregnancy, you should visit with your practitioner about once a month. Your visits will increase to twice monthly until you are 36 weeks pregnant. Following 36 weeks, you will probably see your health care provider about once every week.
Your Relationship with Your Health Care Provider
It is important that you have a good relationship with your health care provider –after all, together you will be looking after the health of your little one! Your health care provider should make you feel comfortable and safe, and answer any questions that you may have about your pregnancy. If you feel uncomfortable about your health care provider for any reason, do not hesitate to look for someone new to take care of you and your baby.