Prenatal Care and Healthy Beginnings

woman and positive pregnancy testWhether you’re getting ready to have your first baby or your fourth, receiving regular care while pregnant is vital to your baby’s health and your own.

Regular visits to your obstetric care provider will help ensure your baby is growing well and healthy in utero, and help manage any issues that may arise before they become serious.

Start Early and Visit Regularly

It’s essential to begin receiving care early because it allows your provider to identify and address potential risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The sooner those issues are identified, the better for both you and your baby. A visit early in the pregnancy also allows physicians to offer Down syndrome testing at the earliest possible time.

A typical visit schedule:

  • Weeks 4 to 28: 1 prenatal visit a month
  • Weeks 28 to 36: 1 prenatal visit every two weeks
  • Weeks 36 to 40: 1 prenatal visit every week

If you have a chronic health issue, consult your physician before becoming pregnant. If you become pregnant, you should immediately consult your obstetric care provider to determine when care should begin.

Additionally, monitoring risk factors like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes is essential because these, and some chronic conditions, can have an impact on the health of the placenta — the all-important “supply line” that transfers nutrients and oxygen to the baby. A placenta that can’t sustain itself through pregnancy can’t do its job of providing the baby with the essentials of life.

During your visits, you can expect to have your weight and blood pressure monitored and your abdomen measured to track the baby’s size. Your physician may also order additional testing based on how far along you are in your pregnancy or any concerns they may have.

The Role of Ultrasound

Every expectant mother has at least one ultrasound around 20 weeks. The following are most often checked:

  • Baby’s development
  • Placenta and amniotic fluid volume
  • Gender
  • Due date
  • Anatomy

Ultrasounds may be recommended earlier if a woman has irregular periods that might call into question the baby’s due date, or if the fetus seems to be growing at a slower or more rapid rate than considered normal. A physician may order a weekly ultrasound during the last eight weeks of pregnancy if a woman has high blood pressure or diabetes, or if there are concerns about the baby’s growth.

So Much to Talk About

Regular visits are about more than weighing, measuring and testing. They also provide an opportunity for discussing the many factors that surround pregnancy, childbirth and neonatal care, including:

  • What you can expect throughout your pregnancy
  • Various testing and vaccines offered
  • What choices are best for you and your baby
  • Preparing for delivery
  • Pain management
  • Choosing a pediatrician
  • Circumcision
  • Breast and bottle feeding
  • Postpartum contraceptives
  • What to expect after birth

If you have unusual symptoms, such as fluid leakage, bleeding, decreased fetal movement, or contractions, you should never hesitate to contact your provider.

Giving Birth in the Time of COVID

When it’s time to go to the hospital, moms and their support person may see some policy changes put in place to stem the pandemic. These may involve testing, visitor restriction and who can stay with you.

Healthy Beginnings

A healthy birth and baby depend on a healthy pregnancy. You’re no doubt planning to bring your child to regular doctor visits throughout his or her life, but there’s no time like the present to begin helping your baby get the best possible start in life. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, call your provider to discuss the best prenatal care plan for you and your baby.


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Guest Blogger: Bettyann Cirillo, MD, Obstetrician/Gynecologist, Montachusett Women’s Health, Leominster, MA

This blog post is part of our Simply Women initiative that caters to the unique health care needs of women and their families.



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