So you’re expecting your first baby and wondering what prenatal care will be all about? Well, first and foremost, prenatal care is the medical attention aimed at overseeing the well-being of you and your baby.
They will also help ease the discomforts of pregnancy and give you the possibility to have all your questions answered. It is an extremely important part of your pregnancy and we will look at it trimester by trimester so that at each visit you should have a good idea what to expect.
You first visit: When you discover you’re pregnant
Yes, your first prenatal visit should take place when you find out you are pregnant, or rather at about 6-8 weeks into the pregnancy. During this visit the family physician or midwife will need to determine a few things which include the following:
- Your dietary habits
- Any exercise routines you follow
- Medical and health history (how regular are your cycles? The date of your last menstrual period, allergies, mental illnesses etc)
- Family medical history (hereditary/chromosomal disorders which a member of your family or your partner’s family might have which the baby could have inherited)
- Any medication you are taking
You need to make sure that you feel comfortable and have confidence in the physician or midwife who is overseeing your prenatal visit. You need to feel comfortable asking any questions you have. During this visit, your due date will also be calculated. This will help schedule your next visits at the right time.
A second visit usually follows about 4 weeks after your first visit. A urine test and a smear test will also be carried out.
The second trimester visit: starting at around 14 weeks
Determining fetal Genetic Health
During your second trimester certain diagnostic tests might be carried out or recommended if earlier tests indicated the presence of autoimmune diseases or a chromosomal abnormality or if you have a family history of the condition. Typical prenatal DNA tests include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (sometimes also used for a prenatal paternity test).
These two types of fetal DNA sampling techniques allow access to the fetus’s DNA by either extracting samples of amniotic fluid from inside the womb or by taking a tiny sample of placental tissue. These diagnostic DNA tests are the most accurate at determining whether the unborn baby suffers from conditions such as Down’s syndrome or Turner’s syndrome. Unfortunately, they cannot confirm the presence of a condition with 100% accuracy.
Firstly, always take a positive attitude to your prenatal visits; remember these visits are all about you and your baby. Visits always start with a few questions and during this visit he or she will ask about your generally mental wellbeing, any new symptoms you have experienced and whether you have detected any movements from the baby.
Weight gain is also important. Although there is no need to “eat for two” whilst pregnant you want to ensure you follow a healthy diet throughout and that you take in all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Yes, getting yourself weighed every time might be a bit stressful- the weighing scales will be spinning digits you would have never imagines, but you are carrying a lot of extra weight and this will just keep increasing. If you find getting weighed particularly stressful, just step on the scales backwards!
Your urine will be checked for gestational diabetes and your blood pressure recorded. You should also be able to listen to your babies heart beat.
Next visit: At around 16 weeks
Again your weight will be recorded and your urine analyzed. If you request an ultrasound it can be carried out as this normally takes places a bit later at around 18 – 20 weeks. During your 16th week visit they will also carry out maternal serum screening, a type of blood test which can help indicate certain birth defects. By the 22nd week fetal heart beat will be very easy to hear although it can be even heard at much earlier stages.
Visits become more frequent the closer you get to your due date- towards your 40th week, visits may be as often as every couple of days. At every visit your weight will be recorded.