Prenatal Medical Care
The importance of early prenatal medical care:As soon as a woman discovers she is pregnant, she should establish a schedule of prenatal care with her physician for the entire duration of the
- every month from the 1st week through the 28th week
- every two weeks from the 29th week through the 36th week
- weekly from the 37th week until delivery
Who provides prenatal care?Prenatal care can be provided by various medical professionals, including the following:
- Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN) - a physician who has specialized training in the care of women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. An OB-GYN also specializes in many gynecological health issues.
- Family Physician (FP) - a physician who has specialized training in primary care, including obstetrics.
- Nurse Practitioner - a nurse with specialized training who can provide women's health care.
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) - a nurse who has additional training to care for women with low-risk pregnancies. Some midwives work with physicians while some work on an independent basis.
- Perinatologist - an obstetrician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Perinatologists are also called maternal-fetal specialists.
What occurs during the prenatal care visits?The goal of prenatal care is not only to provide the best care for the pregnant woman and the unborn child, but also to prepare the mother-to-be for the delivery of a healthy baby. During prenatal visits, tests are performed on both the mother and the baby to assess any potential risks, to treat any maternal or fetal complications, and to monitor the growth and development of the fetus. In addition, counseling and guidance are provided regarding various aspects of pregnancy, including weight gain, exercise, nutrition, and overall health. A typical prenatal visit may include any/all of the following:
- weight measurement
- blood pressure measurement
- measurement of the uterus to check for proper growth of the fetus
- physical examination of the mother to identify problems or discomforts (i.e., swelling of the hands and feet)
- urine test to measure sugar and protein levels, which can indicate diabetes or preeclampsia (a condition characterized by pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling due to fluid retention)
- fetal heart rate measurement
- prenatal screening tests (i.e., blood tests to check for anemia)
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