In the modern age, prenatal visits are like maternal instincts to protect your young one during your pregnancy. A prenatal visit is preventive care through which you can understand the alarming signs if any in your pregnancy and your healthcare professional can take appropriate steps to correct them. Research shows that an increased number of antenatal or prenatal visits, may reduce the chances of stillbirth and provide a positive pregnancy experience.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a pregnant woman’s 8 or more contact throughout pregnancy with a healthcare provider reduces a significant number of perinatal deaths.
How often do I need prenatal visits during 1st trimester?
When you get pregnant the task of selecting a healthcare provider who will guide you throughout your 40 weeks long journey is very important.
Things you can look forward to in your first prenatal visit:
Your healthcare provider may go through your medical history along the lines of the following:
-Your last date of the menstrual cycle, your cycle duration, frequency, etc; your past pregnancy if any, and whether you had any other gynecological visits.
-Your personal and family history.
-If you have been in contact with any toxic substances.
-If you use any medications, supplements, or have been prescribed by your physician, or take -any over-the-counter ones.
-If you have any habit in your lifestyle of smoking, alcohol, caffeine, etc.
-If you have traveled to places where malaria, zika virus, tuberculosis, or other such diseases are common, etc.
Physical examination may consist of the following:
-Blood pressure assessment
-Check your height
-Estimate your body mass index (BMI) and check weight, and help you figure out the required weight for a safe pregnancy.
-A breast exam, pelvic exam, and tests of heart, lungs, and thyroid.
-A pap test would be recommended if it has been too long since your last one.
Laboratory tests may be advised including:
-A Blood test to check for Hemoglobin (Hb), its deficiency can cause Anemia which can adversely affect pregnancy outcome.
-Your blood group and Rh factor (Rhesus factor) will be estimated. Since you may belong to a high-risk pregnancy group if you are Rh-negative and your baby is Rh-positive.
-To check your immunity status towards rubella, chickenpox, etc.
-Various other blood tests may be done to determine if you have any infections like Hepatitis, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, urinary tract infections, etc.
-Genetic screening tests may be asked to be.
-You will be informed about your expected date of delivery (EDD) through sonography, that is the date from your last day of menstrual periods to 40 complete weeks. It also helps you and your healthcare provider assess your baby’s growth and if the need arises to screen for certain fetal abnormalities like down’s syndrome, etc.
Certain lifestyle changes may have to be incorporated by you as follows:
-You will be recommended to take prenatal vitamin supplements.
-You might have to make some changes to your diet to include nutritious food.
-Physical activity is important, so your healthcare expert may advise you to do moderate activity after assessing your general condition.
-Other factors like dental care, vaccinations you have taken, sex, ongoing medications, travel plans, etc. may be inquired into.
The normal bodily changes which occur during pregnancy may be informed to you by your healthcare provider such as:
-You may experience swollen breasts and tenderness.
-Morning sickness including nausea and or vomiting may occur. Your healthcare expert may help if it gets worse.
–If you have any queries or questions, you can bounce them off to your healthcare professional.
Things you can look forward to in your subsequent first trimester prenatal visits:
Every 4 weeks: During the first trimester, a prenatal visit may be scheduled and it may not be as long as your first one.
Around 12-14 weeks: Baby’s heartbeat may be heard, your healthcare provider may use a doppler instrument to ensure normal heart rate and rhythm.
How often do I need prenatal visits during 2nd trimester?
Your healthcare provider will ask you to come every 4 weeks during your 2nd trimester for your prenatal appointments. Your BP and weight will be checked and then a detailed checkup of your baby in the womb is done as follows:
-Your healthcare expert may measure the fundal height which is the measure from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus which will ascertain the baby’s growth.
-With the help of a Doppler instrument, your health expert will hear the baby’s heartbeat and you will also hear new life growing in your womb.
-Your healthcare provider will advise you to report the fetal movements when you notice them. Usually around 18-20 weeks, you may notice flutters.
-Your vaccination requirements will be discussed.
-Morning sickness may be reduced.
-Your pregnancy bump appears.
-Your health expert may offer you different options of screening tests you might need, as follows:
>> Blood tests may be advised to rule out genetic or chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s syndrome or spina bifida, etc. Additional Amniocentesis test may also be recommended if the blood tests show signs of suspicion. Amniocentesis is the testing of fluid protecting around the baby in the womb.
>> Blood tests may be recommended around 24-28 weeks for Hemoglobin levels, blood count, etc. If you have risk factors for gestational diabetes then blood testing for diabetes during pregnancy is also done.
>> If you have Rh-negative blood then a special test for Rh antibodies is performed.
>> Fetal ultrasound is done to assess the growth of your baby, and its anatomy and may also allow knowing the gender of your baby.
How often do I need prenatal visits during 3rd trimester?
Your healthcare professional may ask you to visit every 2 or 4 weeks as per your condition and history during the pregnancy. Your prenatal visit may consist of the following:
Your healthcare expert may inquire if you have any signs or symptoms like contractions, leaking of fluid, or bleeding.
Your weight will be checked along with your BP and your baby’s heartbeat and movements are evaluated as well.
Your healthcare provider will check the fetal movements and also advise you to keep tabs on the movements as often as you can and report if movements have decreased than before.
Vaccinations like the flu shot, tetanus toxoid (TT), reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis may be discussed with your healthcare expert.
Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria testing may be done so that the risk of infection with GBS is absent for your newborn. If you are tested positive then a course of antibiotics before delivery is prescribed by your healthcare expert.
The position of the baby whether it is head first is investigated around the term of pregnancy. On the off chance it is feet first or buttock first it will most probably remain like that till term. According to your healthcare provider’s skill set, they will plan for an external cephalic version (An external cephalic version is an attempt by a skilled expert to try to move the baby in the womb through sonography guidance to the desired head first position) or C-Section.