Pregnancy brings a lot of changes in a woman’s body. She needs to take care of herself and the life inside of her. In fact, the body needs to be prepped before the baby implants inside. And as such women trying to get pregnant are given supplements to keep the body in good shape. And if someone gets pregnant as a surprise, they are immediately given essential supplements and asked to care for themselves. There are hormonal changes that happen, and women need to take care of another life.
Women who have been healthy before pregnancy can also experience complications with physical changes. This is why pregnancy is generally risky. Thus, prenatal care can reduce the risk of getting complications during and after pregnancy. This can help health care providers in diagnosing, treating and managing health conditions before they can get serious.
What is Prenatal Care?
A healthy birth comes from a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal care improves the chances of a healthy and risk-free pregnancy and birth. This begins with pre-pregnancy care.
This helps women in taking certain steps before getting pregnant, so they can have a healthy pregnancy. Women can take the following steps for it:
- Increase the intake of folic acid to at least 400mcg daily
- Plan for the reproductive life
- Control and manage diabetes or other medical conditions
- Ensure that the immunizations are on point and updated
- Have a healthy weight
- Avoid drugs, smoking and drinking
- Get treated for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
- Get more information on the family health as well as the medical history of the partner
Women who think they are pregnant must visit their health care provider for prenatal care. A prenatal care visit entails urine sample, weight checks and a physical exam. Depending on the phase of the pregnancy, there may be ultrasound scans, blood and imaging tests. General discussion on health and questions on pregnancy may be held. A pre-pregnancy check and prenatal care can help in the prevention of complications and help women in understanding how they can keep the baby healthy while taking care of themselves. Regular prenatal care can ensure the following:
- Reduction of risk of complications to the fetus or baby. Women who smoke and drink during pregnancy can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in their children. Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of fetal spectrum disorders causing abnormal facial features, intellectual disability, poor coordination and memory along with problems with bones, kidneys and heart.
- Reduction in pregnancy complications. Women need to follow a good diet, regular exercise and avoid exposure to harmful substances such as radiation or lead. This reduces the risk of complications for pregnancy and ensures better fetal health. It is important that women monitor and control pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and blood pressure. This is necessary to manage or prevent complications and effects.
- Women must ensure that the medication they take is safe for them and the fetus. Certain medications for acne treatments, herbal or dietary supplements that are taken during pregnancy can harm the baby.
- In order to reduce neural tube defects, women must increase the intake of folic acid. Most prenatal vitamins contain the correct amount of folic acid and other vitamins that is needed by the mother and baby. They can consume folate as well, found in leafy green vegetables and orange juice. But folate isn’t as easily absorbed as folic acid.
Complications that can happen in a pregnancy
Goals of Prenatal Care
The goals of pregnant care can be summarised as follows:
- Reducing complications during pregnancy.
- Taking prenatal vitamins and healthy food to ensure proper nutrition is received by the mother and the baby.
- Ensuring that unsafe medications aren’t taken by the mother.
- Reducing complication risk for the future infant and fetus.
Once a woman has become pregnant, even then she needs to take care of herself, in each stage of the pregnancy. She must schedule visits with the doctor every month during the first six months of pregnancy, every two weeks in the 7th and 8th month of pregnancy and every week during the last month of pregnancy. During such visits, the doctor monitors the woman’s health and of the baby. These visits will include:
- Checking the blood pressure
- Taking screens and tests to check for issues such as HIV or anemia
- Measuring the weight gain
- Discussion on exercise and diet
- Monitoring the heart rate and growth of the baby
- Some visits may involve checking for the baby’s position and taking note of changes in the woman’s body as it prepares for birth.
The health care provider may also hold special classes to prepare the mother for birth by talking her through the process and discuss the expectations while the woman is pregnant. They can also teach the basic skills needed to care for the baby. The number of visits and tests depends on the type of pregnancy. A high-risk pregnancy will need more doctor visits and special care.
Most pregnancy care focuses on prenatal and current care. However, postpartum care is also necessary. The postpartum period exists until 6-8 weeks after the birth of the baby. This is a period of great emotional and physical change for the mother as she learns to take care of the newborn. During postpartum, a woman needs nutrition, rest and good vaginal care.
Rest is needed for mothers to rebuild strength. To avoid getting way too tired mothers to need to be careful. She may have to do the following to get as much rest as she can:
- Keep the crib near her bed to ensure easy feeding during the night.
- Sleep when the baby is sleeping.
- Allowing someone else to feed the baby with a bottle as she rests.
It is important for women to eat right and get the right nutrition. The weight gain during pregnancy ensures that the woman has enough nutrition for breastfeeding. But to maintain nutrition, a good diet is needed. Doctors suggest that women must eat whenever they feel hungry and not when they are just tired. Some tips on eating are:
- Drinking sufficient fluids
- Avoiding snacks that are high in fat
- Eating low-fat foods with a balance in carbohydrates and proteins, including vegetables and fruits
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As part of postpartum, women must care for the vagina. There may be some vaginal soreness if there was a tear during delivery or there may be a contraction in the first few days following delivery. Women may experience discharge and small blood clots or urination issues.
Women must see the doctor six weeks post-delivery for proper treatment and to discuss the symptoms. The vagina needs time to heal, so sex must be avoided until six weeks after delivery.
Importance of Prenatal care
Pregnancy is a wonderful and exciting time as well as a time for a great change in the female body. The hormones increase, and the baby grows more. Pregnant women need to take extra care of themselves to ensure a healthy pregnancy. The foundation of good pregnancy, delivery and postpartum is regular and early prenatal care.
If any problems arise during pregnancy, women must regularly visit their OB/GYN to identify and treat the issues. Studies have indicated that mothers who have taken good prenatal care have babies with lower chances of low birth weight or death.
A good exercise routine pre-pregnancy is good, but during pregnancy, it is good to perform light exercises. Start with something easy like stretching, walking or yoga. This can make delivery easier. However, one must check with the doctor before starting any exercise routine. You can read our recommended post on Parental workout for women here:
Good food is important as nutrients are passed to the baby via the placenta. Women need 300 to 500 calories in a day, especially n the 3rd trimester. They can take healthy snacks such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and crackers can add the calories. Junk food high in sugar and fat isn’t as good.
Depending on what the woman eats, good and bad nutrients, both can pass to the baby. Things like nicotine, drugs, alcohol and tobacco can cause birth defects, developmental disabilities and cause harm to the baby. Even prescription medications need to be taken with care, after consultation. Prenatal care is available easily, and a woman must make use of it.
Women need to stay as healthy as they can immediately before, during and after pregnancy. They must stay up to date on all healthcare appointments and follow all instructions by the doctor. Eating right, exercise and proper medication are also crucial. Pregnancy is a crucial time, but it can be safe if you follow a few precautionary steps.