Prenatal care is the treatment of a woman and her unborn child during pregnancy. It is never too early to begin prenatal care and set the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. From the beginning of your first trimester until the birth of your baby, your OB-GYN is your partner for health and wellness. You should schedule your first obstetric appointment as soon as you discover that you have become pregnant. Your obstetrician will confirm your pregnancy and depending on whether your pregnancy is considered high risk, may ask you to return for prenatal appointments monthly, bimonthly, or according to a schedule designed to offer you the healthiest pregnancy possible.
Did you know…
that mothers who do not get prenatal care have three times as many low birth weight babies as women who do seek prenatal treatment? Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that fetus and infant mortality is five times higher among women who do not get prenatal care.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I feel healthy. Do I need prenatal care?
Yes. Prenatal care is about more than your health – it’s about your baby’s health too! Throughout your pregnancy, your obstetrician will routinely screen you for diseases and conditions that could threaten your health or the health of your baby. These screenings begin in the first trimester and continue up until birth, so make an appointment to see your obstetrician as soon as you become pregnant.
What should I expect at my prenatal care visits?
Your obstetrician will likely adhere to the prenatal care guidelines established by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Your first visit may be one of your longest though you will visit your obstetrician multiple times over the course of your pregnancy. Your first visit will consist of a review of your health history, a physical examination, blood type and Rh testing, HIV screening, and a host of other lab tests. You may also need an updated pap smear and immunizations to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Finally, your obstetrician will offer tips and advice for a healthy pregnancy and schedule your next visit – usually during the first part of your second trimester. Future prenatal visits will consist of weight measurement, fundal height measurements, and blood pressure screenings, as well as urine tests, sonograms and additional lab testing as needed.
Are there any instructions I need to follow between prenatal care visits to ensure a healthy pregnancy?
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your OB-GYN about steps you should be taking to protect the health of you and your baby. Examples include:
- Taking a prenatal vitamin
- Avoiding foods high in mercury
- Getting a flu shot
- Avoiding hot tubs or saunas
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Avoiding alcohol and excessive caffeine consumption
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Optimizing your sleep position
- Avoiding contact with kitty litter
- Taking a childbirth education class
Postpartum care is important during the days and weeks following a vaginal or c-section delivery. The first two to three days of postpartum care are under the observation of nurses and an obstetrician dedicated to the health of women following delivery. However, the majority of the postpartum period occurs at home, with only one to two follow-up appointments scheduled in the six to eight week period following birth. Most women make complete and healthy recoveries during this time when following the advice of their obstetricians. However, some develop complications, such as hemorrhaging. Hemorrhaging is excessive bleeding caused by placental detachment from the uterine wall. It is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Did you know…
that postpartum hemorrhaging only occurs in about 4 percent of women after birth? Women are particularly at risk for postpartum hemorrhaging because they experience up to a 50 percent increase in blood volume during pregnancy. It is important to note that blood loss is both common and normal following birth, but women who lose more than 500 ml of blood after a vaginal birth or 1,000 ml of blood following c-section births are said to be hemorrhaging.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will I know if I am hemorrhaging?
You will know you are hemorrhaging if you are losing excessive amounts of blood, experiencing a drop in blood pressure or have a low red blood cell count. Your doctor and nurses will monitor you for hemorrhaging in the 48 – 72 hours after delivery, and you’ll be given instructions for identifying signs of hemorrhaging after you leave the hospital, such as bleeding that gets heavier with time or the passing of golf ball size clots or larger. Hemorrhaging can occur in women up to 6 weeks after birth.
How will my obstetrician treat me if I am hemorrhaging?
If you are hemorrhaging, your doctor will administer fluids via IV and provide iron supplements. You may also be given medications to encourage uterine contractions or a blood transfusion in rare cases.
Will I need to follow any post-treatment care instructions?
Your body will need time to replenish its blood levels, so it is normal to experience some weakness or lightheadedness following a postpartum hemorrhage. Depending on the extent of the hemorrhage, some women may need to be kept in the hospital for medical oversight during the initial stages of recovery. The vast majority of women who experience postpartum hemorrhaging make complete recoveries without long-term side effects.