Prenatal care involves the series of appointments and prenatal testing that are conducted by your healthcare professional throughout your pregnancy. The purpose of these visits is to monitor your health as well as the health of your baby.
Depending on your medical history and your family medical history, your physician will determine your prenatal care plan. Prenatal care is essential to maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Find a Doctor
The first step in receiving prenatal care is to find a doctor that you feel comfortable with. It is important to agree with the philosophy of the obstetrician you choose, because this individual will be guiding you through your pregnancy as well as the birth of your child. Once you choose the doctor that is best for you, you are ready to begin routine prenatal care.
Reduce Risks of Preterm Births
In the United States, preterm birth accounts for the majority of infant mortality. In 2014, 1 out of every 10 births was preterm. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists dictates that a birth between 37 weeks and 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy is preterm.
The final weeks of gestation are essential to your baby’s developing brain and lungs, and babies born prematurely may experience difficulty breathing, as well as vision and hearing problems. Learning disabilities and behavioral problems have also been noted in children born before 39 gestational weeks.
Prenatal care is essential in reducing the number of preterm births. During routine visits, your obstetrician is able to identify risk factors that may lead to a preterm birth, such as recurring bladder infections or chronic illness. Early treatment may give you and your baby the best chance at a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
Reduce Risks of Pregnancy-Related Complications
Early detection of pregnancy complications may give your doctor time to treat these symptoms and prevent more serious outcomes.
Some women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. If not managed properly, high blood pressure may lead to a condition known as preeclampsia. This condition is characterized by an unexpected increase in blood pressure that can be very dangerous for both you and your baby. If a potential complication is detected, your healthcare provider will manage your prenatal care plan accordingly. Additionally, specialized care can be planned for the time of birth if you or your baby may need extra care when it is time to deliver.
Certain risk factors may indicate to your physician that extra attention is needed in monitoring your baby’s health. These risk factors include being of advanced maternal age (35 years or older), having a family history of a genetic disorder, or a previous birth of a child with a chromosomal abnormality. Women at risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormalities may be presented with the option of prenatal genetic testing. These tests can provide you and your doctor with more information about your pregnancy.
Noninvasive prenatal screening is a testing option that can be performed as early as week 10 in pregnancy without the risks associated with more invasive procedures. Speak with a genetic counselor if you are seeking more information on noninvasive prenatal genetic testing.
Prenatal care is extremely important in ensuring your baby receives the attention necessary for healthy development. Choose a doctor early, maintain all appointments, and always be honest with your care provider about any concerns and questions you may have.