First-time-mom’s guide to prenatal care appointments.
Congratulations on your first baby! By now, you may be feeling giddy and excited but, at the same time, nervous and clueless—it’s like you don’t know what to do first! Treading through pregnancy will put you in a whirlwind of well-meaning greetings, cute baby presents, and mostly, a series of prenatal checks, which can be a bit overwhelming for first-time mothers.
Prenatal care appointments are highly essential in your journey to motherhood. These regular visits to the doctor do more than just keep track of your condition; they also ensure that your baby is growing healthily and normally!
If pregnancy has got you like a deer caught in the headlights, don’t fret! Here is a guide to prenatal care appointments that first-time moms like you can find useful.
How Important Is Prenatal Care?
As soon as you suspect you may be pregnant, you should schedule your first visit to a trusted health-care provider—the sooner, the better!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about five hundred women who die every year because of pregnancy-related complications, and five hundred more of such deaths may be unidentified. Meanwhile, infant deaths may occur because of congenital anomalies and low birth weight, both of which can be significantly corrected through regular prenatal care.
Getting adequate prenatal care does not just help prevent complications, but it also helps educate women on how to maintain a healthy pregnancy and to protect their infant in these ways: following a healthy diet, getting enough exercise per doctor’s advice, and avoiding exposure to potentially harmful substances, such as smoke, radiation, and several others.
How Often Do You Need Prenatal Checkups?
When you’re expecting, you can expect to welcome regular prenatal visits into your routine. But unlike regular health checkups, prenatal appointments bring an air of excitement for mothers each time since you will be learning more and more about your baby during every visit.
To ensure your healthy pregnancy, your health-care provider may recommend that you see him or her once a month from weeks 4 to 28 of your pregnancy, once every 2 weeks from weeks 28 to 36, and once a week from weeks 36 to 40. It’s important not to skip an appointment even when you have a tight personal schedule, as prenatal care is a significant part of your journey.
Your doctor may even do some changes to this schedule, especially if your pregnancy is considered high-risk. This usually occurs in women who are pregnant at age thirty-five and older, have preexisting health problems, and have acquired pregnancy-related medical problems.
What Happens during Your Prenatal Visits?
Even if you are feeling fine, it is important that you still go and see your doctor according to schedule. During these prenatal care visits, your doctor will start by asking relevant questions about how you’re feeling or if you have any complaints or worries. There may also be specific questions asked depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy.
Constantly in every visit, you will be measured for your weight, abdominal height, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation, among others. Your doctor will also listen to your baby’s heartbeat and check his or her position, closely monitoring fetal development and any possible complications, if or when they arise, and intervening as necessary.
An example of such intervention may be a nonstress test, a noninvasive procedure done over twenty-eight weeks of gestation if you sense that your baby’s movements are not as frequent as they should be or if you are past your due date. This test is performed by attaching two belts across your abdomen: one with an ultrasound transducer that measures contractions and another that measures fetal heart rate. The purpose of a nonstress test is to confirm if the baby is receiving adequate oxygen or to check for signs of fetal distress.
How Can You Maximize Your Prenatal Checkups?
However, you may not need to undergo a nonstress test or any other test during a prenatal visit, and many first-time moms may see an uneventful checkup as not getting the care they deserve. The truth is, a quick visit is usually a sign that you and your baby are progressing into pregnancy normally.
But if you want to make prenatal visits more satisfying, don’t hesitate to speak up to your practitioner about anything that’s bothering you. Your doctor can’t know for sure what else you may be feeling with only a physical examination. When going for prenatal visits, it is important that you can speak freely and open-mindedly to the person who’s giving you and your baby care. Of course, it’s always important to listen to professional advice too.
Once you get your first prenatal visit and confirm your pregnancy, it should be an awesome and satisfying journey from there. The best thing to remember is to enjoy your pregnancy as much as you can while keeping yourself and your baby healthy at the same time!