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Having the right prenatal care may determine how healthy your pregnancy and birth is. If you’ve been experiencing pregnancy symptoms, you should consult a doctor to confirm your pregnancy. This marks the beginning of your prenatal care if the pregnancy is viable. Prenatal care focuses on ensuring that your pregnancy goes smoothly until your D-day arrives.
Having a strong support system also plays a vital role in your journey. So how do these 2 critical factors impact your wellness and that of your baby? Read on.
Why is prenatal care important?
You must regularly see your doctor when you’re pregnant. The recommended schedule for prenatal visits is attending once every 4-6 weeks for the 1st 28 weeks, and your doctor will increase the visits as you near your due date. While this schedule usually covers antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies, your doctor will have to see you as often as he deems necessary if you have any pregnancy issues.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also set some guidelines to improve prenatal care quality and help pregnant moms to have a positive pregnancy experience. Among the recommendations they have put in place are:
- Your prenatal care provider’s appointment should be more than just a routine visit. This is the perfect opportunity not only to develop a bond with your health practitioner, but also to assess your health to prevent any pregnancy complications. Your prenatal care team should also determine effective preventive measures to avoid the risk of stillbirth and maternal death.
- Your antenatal care package should include consultations on healthy food intake and physical activity in pregnancy.
- Prenatal supplements to ensure optimal nutrition for you and especially your baby. Consuming daily oral iron (30-60 mg of elemental iron) and folic acid (0.4 mg) folic acid help prevent puerperal sepsis, maternal anemia, preterm birth, and low birth weight.
- It would help if you had discussions with your care provider about the safety of recommended vaccines while pregnant, such as tetanus toxoid and flu vaccines. You should get inoculated within the time frame given.
- Care providers also ask all pregnant women about their use of alcohol and other substances in the early stages of pregnancy and at every prenatal visit.
- Prenatal tests should include fetal measurement, blood work to determine the possibility of pregnancy-related complications, and ultrasound scans. Your doctor should advise you on dealing with typical pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, constipation, and back pain.
- You should do an early ultrasound scan before 24 weeks’ gestation to determine the gestational age, avoid induction of labor post-term, improve early detection of multiple pregnancies or congenital disabilities, and improve your overall experience.
Is not getting prenatal care neglect on your part?
Undoubtedly, yes. With all the guidelines issued explaining the vital role prenatal care plays, neglecting these services will directly affect your pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum outcome. The absence of antenatal care increases the neonatal death risk to 40% and there is a higher chance of your baby being born prematurely.
By avoiding the tests requested by your doctor, you also put yourself at risk. The possibility of having undiagnosed pregnancy-related illnesses with no intervention poses an even greater danger to yourself and your unborn child.
Why is a solid support system important during pregnancy?
With raging hormones attacking you physically, emotionally, and psychologically, pregnancy is equal parts a happy experience and a difficult situation. Understandably every pregnant woman needs to have all the support they need during this period, whether they are experiencing challenges or not.
Studies show that an increased level of support from people around you lowers the risk of postpartum depression. The 2 core groups to rely on for holistic support during the pregnancy include your personal support system and your healthcare support system.
1. Personal support system
These are the people in your inner circle who should give you the utmost support because you get to interact with them daily. This group includes:
- Husband and kids (if you have any). The role your family plays is vital, particularly when you’re pregnant. Since you live in the same house, they can provide you with much-needed assistance, especially in your last pregnancy weeks. The role of your husband as a dad-to-be is to provide convenience. He should help do household chores, make you comfortable when you’re exhausted, and accompany you to your ob-gyn appointments. The involvement of your partner significantly decreases the chances of maternal depression by 90%. Your spouse’s support will affect your overall health and nurture a positive disposition despite the difficulties you could face.
- Relatives. Your family member can be a good back-up if your husband is not available during this exciting period of your life. My husband works overseas, so my mom provided me with all the physical and emotional support I needed when I was pregnant with my 3 kids.
- Girlfriends. Do you need some laughs or good conversation? Or maybe you need some good advice related to pregnancy or parenting? About 38.6% of moms-to-be mentioned that their main confidante and advice-givers are their friends. Girlfriends are a source of happiness and wisdom during these times.
- Neighbors. Your neighbors can also come through for you with the tips and tricks of parenthood. Enjoy the special attention you’re receiving from your neighbors at the moment since your little one will soon steal the limelight.
- Mom groups. With the different mom groups available online and offline, you shall get loads of information coming your way. Sharing your experiences with other soon-to-be moms is also an excellent way to know the best practices. Try to incorporate each practical tip into your routines, especially if you’re confident it will work for you, but learn to filter bad advice. When I was pregnant with my 3rd child, I joined mom groups that offered free seminars on prenatal care, breastfeeding, babywearing, and postpartum care. I took advantage of these freebies and even gained a lot of friends along the way. It helped cured my boredom.
2. Healthcare support system
This support group consists of professionals who should take care of you and your baby before and after birth. Communicate with them regularly, keeping them informed of your pregnancy journey, as this will help them assess the current health condition of you and your baby. They include:
- Doctor. As soon as your pregnancy is confirmed, your chosen ob-gyn will provide the prenatal care you need to support the growth of your baby. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, a perinatologist steps in to handle any underlying illnesses you have. Your doctor will also diagnose and provide interventions for pregnancy-related conditions such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
- Midwife and nurse. Your midwife is trained to provide the prenatal and postnatal care you need. If no complications arise, your midwife can help you deliver your baby with little or no medical intervention. Maternal nurses also provide you with physical and emotional support to face your new role as soon as your baby arrives. Some families seek doulas for emotional and physical support.
- Dietitian. A dietitian was a handy resource for my pregnancy journey when I was dealing with gestational diabetes. She assessed my food intake and made sure I had my glucose level under control. Just in case you find yourself in the same boat as I was, a dietitian is there to give you dietary recommendations to address your health issues. With your dietitian around, you can enjoy your meals and rest your worries.
- Lactation consultant. Are you leaning towards exclusively breastfeeding your little one? Are you worried your child may not latch properly? The first few days are the most difficult, but a lactation consultant will help you deal with breastfeeding issues. You can consult them at different points throughout your pregnancy and delivery. Since a certified lactation consultant is also trained to provide counseling, rest assured they will also take care of your emotional and psychological needs.
- Dentist. It is crucial not to miss your dentist appointment, especially during pregnancy. Your teeth and gums become prone to various dental health problems because of your surging hormones. It’s also believed that your baby takes up a huge chunk of your calcium intake. Regardless, don’t take your oral health lightly.
Antenatal care is a significant factor in establishing a safe delivery and childbirth. Partnered with all the support you can get from your inner circle and your health care practitioners, your pregnancy experience will be positive and less affected by the many health issues that tend to occur. Remember that an individual eager to join your household is growing inside your womb, so all your efforts should be at ensuring they experience the healthiest versions of themselves after birth.
Have you visited your doctor lately? How are you and your baby at this point in your pregnancy? Share your prenatal care experience and the kind of support you’re getting in the comments section below. This is a great place to interact with and get support from other soon-to-be parents.