pregnant woman laying down with booties on belly

A healthy and safe pregnancy is all any soon-to-be mother hopes for. Thrilling as the idea is of carrying another human life, it can be quite the roller coaster journey. No two pregnancies are identical, which is why taking an extra level of precaution, especially during pregnancy, is so important. After all, it may be the one thing that makes your journey to delivery a healthy and safe one.

What is Prenatal Care?

Prenatal care is the healthcare you receive during and throughout pregnancy and it helps to keep both mother and baby healthy. During prenatal care, you should receive regular checkups from an obstetrician, doctor, and/or nurse.

Why is Prenatal Care Important?

A major advantage to receiving prenatal care is that it lets your physician or health care provider identify any health problems or risks early. Early prenatal care can prevent and remedy many problems for both mom and baby.

Generally, in women aged 35 and older, these pregnancies are classified as high-risk, primarily due to health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure. In these cases, your doctor may schedule you for regular visits more than normal and even more often as your delivery date approaches.

When to Start Prenatal Care and What Does it Entail?

Typically, prenatal care should start as soon as you’re confirmed pregnant. It is possible to visit the doctor before you get pregnant, which is called pre-pregnancy care. But no worries if that’s not possible, but be sure to start prenatal visits once pregnancy is confirmed.

Prenatal care, for the most part, entails many of the same checks for all women, however, pregnancies differ. Your level of care largely depends on how far along your pregnancy is and how high your risk for complications. A normal prenatal care schedule for someone who is 18-35 years old and healthy is every 4 or 6 weeks for the first 32 weeks; every 2 or 3 weeks for the 32nd-37th weeks; and every week from the 37th week until delivery.

Services offered during a check-up include tests and a few physical exams to ensure you and your baby are okay. The tests will generally be a complete check-up with a physical exam and blood and urine tests to make sure everything is as it should be. Other tests that are usually done include: measuring your height, weight, blood pressure, breathing, and pulse, a breast exam, a pelvic exam, a Pap smear test, testing for sexually transmitted infections, screening for diabetes, anemia, and hepatitis B.

Wow, you guessed it!

The first visit is usually the longest one. Plus, the tests don’t stop there, your doctor will most likely also ask you about your medical history, the other parent’s medical history, and your family’s medical history.

You will also get advice about your diet, lifestyle, and prenatal vitamins. The most important supplement you can take is folic acid, which ideally you would start taking before you’re even pregnant. Your doctor can give you advice about any lifestyle or occupational changes you can make to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

You will also do follow-up visits and these should be a little shorter than your initial visit. But remember, it all depends on your type of pregnancy. During your follow-up visits, your doctor or nurse will examine you to make sure everything is developing well, and that you and the baby are healthy.

It’s safe to say prenatal checkups save lives. It’s one of the best and surest ways to keep up a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal care is also the best time to ask any questions or raise concerns that you have about your pregnancy.