Prenatal Care

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Prenatal care is medical care for pregnant woman and is important for a healthy pregnancy. Its key components include regular checkups and prenatal testing, eating healthfully, exercising, and beginning as soon as one knows she is pregnant.

During her pregnancy, a woman should see her doctor about once each month for the first six months of pregnancy, then every two weeks for the seventh and eighth month of pregnancy, and then every week until her baby is born. However, if a woman is over 35 or has a pregnancy with high risks due to health problems, she would probably have to see her doctor more often.

During prenatal visits, the practitioner will start by asking the pregnant woman how she was feeling and whether she has any complaints or worries. The practitioner would also answer any questions the expected mother has. After that, the health care provider would check the pregnant woman’s weight, blood pressure, heart, lungs, breasts, and urine. S/he would then measure the woman’s abdomen, check the position of her baby, listen to her baby’s heartbeat, perform as many exams and order tests as needed, and closely monitor any complications the woman has or has developed. At the end of the visit, the practitioner will review his/her findings with the expected mother, explain what normal changes to expect before her next visit and what warning signs to watch for. S/he would advise her about lifestyle issues, and discuss the pros and cons of optional tests that the expected mother might want to consider.

Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits including, boosting the expected mother’s energy level, helping her sleep better, reducing pregnancy discomfort (such as backaches, bloating, swelling, or constipation), helping to prepare for childbirth, reducing stress and lifting her spirits, improving her self-image, helping prevent or treat gestational diabetes, and helping her in getting her body back faster after childbirth. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a pregnant woman should get 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days of the week unless she has medical or pregnancy complication. Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as the pregnant woman exercises with caution and does not overwork herself. Some types of exercises that are good during pregnancy are: swimming, brisk walking, stretching, golf, stationary cycling, and yoga.

During the 1st trimester, an expected mother should have her prenatal screening tests done, register for breastfeeding classes and/or a lactation consultant, eat about 300 more calories a day, get plenty of rest each night, and register for prenatal classes. She should visit her obstetrician once a month to keep track of her baby’s progress. An expected mother should get an ultrasound, genetic counseling, and Chronic Villus Sampling (CVS) to detect genetic abnormalities from her obstetrician.

During the 2nd trimester, the 4 key things to do are: get an Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test, test for amniocentesis, ultrasound testing, and other prenatal testing basics (such as urine screening or maternal blood sampling). Kegel exercises are a series of pelvic muscle exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor to improve urethral and rectal sphincter function. The success of Kegel exercises depends on proper technique and sticking to a regular exercise program.

An Expanded Alpha Feto-Protein (XAFP) blood test is a voluntary blood test that can help identify women who may be at a higher-than-usual risk for having a baby with certain birth defects. It could help detect open neural tube defects, abdominal wall defects, down syndrome, and trisomy 18. Natural childbirth has its pros and cons. Some pros include: natural childbirth techniques being not invasive so there is only a slight risk for harm or side effects for the expected mother or her baby, a strong sense of empowerment during labor...
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