Women's Health Source for Pregnant Wives
Prior to modern medicine, many mothers and their babies did not survive pregnancy and the birth process. Today, good prenatal care can significantly improve the quality of the pregnancy and the outcome for the infant and mother.
Good prenatal care includes:
- Good nutrition and health habits before and during pregnancy
- Frequent prenatal examinations
- Routine ultrasounds to detect problems with the baby
- Routine screening for:
- Blood pressure problems
- Blood type problems (Rh and ABO)
- Genetic disorders, if a family history or the age of the mother presents a high risk
- Rubella immunity
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Urine protein
Women who plan to continue a pregnancy to term need to choose a health care provider who will provide prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum services. Provider choices in most communities include:
- Doctors specializing in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN)
- Certified nurse midwives (CNMs)
- Family medicine physicians
- Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) or physician assistants (PAs) who work with a doctor
- Perinatologists (doctors who specialize in the very high risk pregnancy)
Family health care providers, or generalists, can help manage women throughout normal pregnancies and deliveries. If there is a problem with the pregnancy, your doctor will refer you to a specialist.
The goals of prenatal care are to:
- Monitor both the mother and baby throughout the pregnancy
- Look for changes that may lead to a high-risk pregnancy
- Explain nutritional requirements throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period
- Explain activity recommendations or restrictions
- Address common complaints that may arise during pregnancy (such as morning sickness, backaches, leg pain, frequent urination, constipation, and heartburn) and how to manage them, preferably without medications
- Give support to the pregnant woman and her family
Women who are considering becoming pregnant, or who are pregnant, should eat a balanced diet and take a vitamin and mineral supplement that includes at least 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of folic acid. Folic acid is needed to decrease the risk of certain birth defects (such as spina bifida). Sometimes higher doses are prescribed if a woman has a higher than normal risk of these conditions.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid all medications, unless the medications are necessary and recommended by a prenatal health care provider. Women should discuss all medication use with their providers.
Pregnant women should avoid all alcohol and drug use and limit caffeine intake. They should not smoke. They should avoid herbal preparations and common over-the-counter medications that may interfere with normal development of the growing baby.
Prenatal visits are typically scheduled:
- Every 4 weeks during the first 28 weeks of gestation
- Every 2-3 weeks from 28 to 36 weeks gestation
- Weekly from 36 weeks to delivery
Weight gain, blood pressure, fundal height, and the baby's heart beat (as appropriate) are usually measured and recorded at each visit, and routine urine screening tests may be performed.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
- Call for an appointment if you suspect you are pregnant, are currently pregnant and are not receiving prenatal care, or if you are unable to manage common complaints without medication.
- Call your health care provider if you suspect you are pregnant and are on medications for diabetes, thyroid disease, seizures, or high blood pressure.
- Notify your health care provider if you are currently pregnant and have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, chemicals, radiation, or unusual pollutants.
- Call your health care provider if you are currently pregnant and you develop fever, chills, or painful urination.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY
It is urgent that you call your health care provider if you are currently pregnant and you have any amount of vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, physical or severe emotional trauma, or your water breaks (membranes rupture). Also call if you are in the last half of your pregnancy and notice the baby is moving less or not at all.
Prenatal care is more than just health care while you are pregnant. Your health care provider may discuss many issues, such as nutrition and physical activity, what to expect during the birth process and basic skills for caring for your newborn.
Your doctor or midwife will give you a schedule for your prenatal visits. You can expect to see your health care provider more often as your due date gets closer. A typical schedule includes visiting your doctor or midwife
- About once each month during your first six months of pregnancy
- Every two weeks during the seventh and eighth month of pregnancy
- Weekly in the ninth month of pregnancy
If you are over 35 years old or your pregnancy is high risk because you have certain health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure, your doctor or midwife will probably want to see you more often.
Health Problems in Pregnancy
Every pregnancy has some risk of problems. The causes can be conditions you already have or conditions you develop. They also include being pregnant with more than one baby, previous problem pregnancies, or being over age 35.
If you have a chronic condition, you should talk to your health care provider about how to minimize your risk before you get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, you may need a health care team to monitor your pregnancy. Examples of common conditions that can complicate a pregnancy include
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- Autoimmune disorders
- Sexually transmitted diseases
Other conditions that can make pregnancy risky can happen while you are pregnant – for example, gestational diabetes. Good prenatal care can help detect and treat them.