Antenatal care or prenatal care refers to the doctor appointments you will have throughout pregnancy for regular pregnancy health check-ups, tests and scans.
Last Updated: 22 October 2020
Antenatal care is an important part of your pregnancy. Even if you think you and your baby are in the best of health, you must not skip your antenatal visits.
Here are the common questions about antenatal care answered:When should I begin my antenatal appointments?
The first step of pregnancy confirmation is a home pregnancy test taken 7-10 days after you miss your period. If you are unsure if the two pink lines on the home pregnancy test are good enough proof in order to confirm your pregnancy, a visit to your OB shall give you clarity. That is when you would ideally fix your first prenatal appointment for one of the days in the following week.
Soon after your pregnancy is confirmed, your antenatal care will begin that needs to be followed-up regularly till the end of pregnancy.How should I choose my OB?
Your obstetrician (OB)-gynecologist shall become an important member of your family soon. She/he will be the primary source of communication about your growing baby. Hence, it is essential to put in considerable time and thought in choosing your OB.
You may want to decide first on where you want to deliver your baby. If you are starting a fresh search for OBs, you may then look for an OB practicing closer to your preferred location. Alternatively, if you feel convinced about an OB you have already heard about or consulted with, there isn’t anything wrong in fixing him/her in your mind.
Here are a few helpful questions to ask an OB or yourself while deciding:
ü What are the OB’s consulting hours? Does it fit in your schedule?
ü Which are the hospitals she/he is associated with? What is the quality of the medical facilities and service provided in the hospital you prefer? Does the hospital accept your insurance?
ü What are the OB’s birth plan preferences? Does it sync in with your family’s plan?
ü Is the OB available on an emergency?
ü What would be the cost of your consultation and birth plan with the OB? Will it get covered by your insurance or fit in your medical budget?How do I prepare for my first antenatal care visit?
It is alright to make your first antenatal visit without prior preparation. However, if you find yourself anxious at the thought of your first OB appointment, here are a couple of friendly tips to help you prepare:
· Speak to your friends who have been pregnant in the recent times to ask about their experiences.
· Prepare a list of questions which makes you anxious now. You may be confused if you can continue your aerobics class. You may want to know the best sex positions for pregnancy. Write down everything and prepare yourself to be open to your OB. Pregnancy is a time of anxiety for every woman. So, no matter what you want to ask your OB, you are not going to look silly.What to expect during my first antenatal appointment?
Your first antenatal appointment can be long as your doctor or midwife will try to collect a number of health related information of you, your spouse and family.
Here’s what to expect:
· Your last menstrual date (LMP) is a date of importance in your pregnancy. Your OB’s first question to you will most likely be about your LMP. If you missed to note down your period date last month, dig and drill your memory or recollect incidents which happened close to your period, so that you get closer to it.
· You might have to give away a few mL of your blood and urine for testing at a laboratory. Levels of your blood glucose, thyroid, hemoglobin, blood cells count and HIV are a few major parameters that will be tested along with others. A pap smear test to rule out any abnormalities is also common.
· The doctor would want to understand your medical history including your earlier pregnancies or miscarriages if any, and also about your family history. If in case, one of your parents or both have diabetes, she may make a note to check your sugar levels regularly. This can help to avoid or keep gestational diabetes at bay in your pregnancy.
· You will be educated about healthy pregnancy care including intake of prenatal vitamin supplements, nutritional requirements, and fitness and weight gain parameters.What will happen in the subsequent prenatal visits?
Antenatal care is to assess your pregnancy health and diagnose pregnancy risks and complications if any. Here’s what will happen in your regular antenatal appointments:
ü Your weight and blood pressure will be monitored.
ü If you are not gaining the optimal weight for the stage of pregnancy you are in, your doctor will talk to you about gaining weight. If you are overweight, methods to reduce weight will also be discussed.
ü If you have an ultrasound scan during your appointment, you will undergo a scan and you will hear how your baby is developing. You will be intimated about developmental delays or abnormalities if any.
ü Appointments for forthcoming blood tests and screening will be discussed.
ü Your pregnancy mental health will also get a greater share of care during your antenatal care visits.
ü As the pregnancy progresses, you will be asked to take up antenatal classes and make a birth plan.
ü Most of all, you can ask questions and speak about your problems to your doctor or midwife. They are going to be your personal care provider for anything related to your pregnancy, baby and birth.How many antenatal visits will I have in total?
According to the World Health Organization, pregnant women must have at least 8 prenatal consultations with a healthcare provider throughout pregnancy. Your total number of prenatal visits will depend on the health condition of you and your baby. If you are diagnosed with a pregnancy complication, you might need extra visits.
Antenatal care makes sure that you and your baby are safe and healthy. It ensures early diagnosis and interventions for problems associated with pregnancy. It can eliminate or reduce risks of stillbirths and help you sail through a well-informed and guided labor and childbirth experience.