The prenatal care is a term that is used to describe the period when you get checkups from a doctor, nurse, or midwife throughout your pregnancy. This can help you and your future baby to be healthy and safe. Prenatal care can let your health – care provider spot health problems early. Early treatment is very important because it can help to cure many problems and prevent other problems. Your doctor or your midwife will give you a schedule for your prenatal visits.
If you are over 35, then your pregnancy is at high risk, due to problems, like high blood pressure or diabetes, so your doctor or midwife will want to see you more often. Also, you can expect to see your health care provider more often as your delivery date gets closer. It is a known fact that babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are having three times more chances of having a low birth weight and five more times increased risk to die compared to babies who are born by mothers with prenatal care.
A regular checkup is key to a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife will give you advice about what you should give to your unborn baby in order to be healthy when it starts with life.
How can you take care of yourself:
If you suspect that you are pregnant, then the first thing which you should do is to make an appointment with your doctor. You need to remember that it is essential to take care of your baby before you start trying to get pregnant. This is known as preconception health. This means that you know how health conditions and risk factors can affect you or your unborn baby if you become pregnant. For example, some medicines, habits, and foods can increase the risk of defects in your baby, even before your baby is conceived.
Also, some health problems can affect your pregnancy. You need to talk with your doctor before your pregnancy, so you will learn how to prepare your body before you get pregnant. It is important for women to get prepared for pregnancy before they become sexually active. The ideal period for women who want to be prepared before they get pregnant is three months. Below are given the five most important things which you can do before you become pregnant:
- Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials at your home or work, because they can be harmful to your body. Also, you need to stay away from cat or rodent feces or from chemicals.
- Talk with your doctor about the prescription and over–the–counter medicines which you are taking. These medicines also include herbal or dietary supplements. Some medicines are not safe during the pregnancy while stopping others can be harmful to your body.
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol if you. If you cannot do it on your own, then ask your doctor for advice that can help you.
- Take 400 – 800 micrograms of folic acid on daily basis at least three months before you get pregnant, so this will reduce your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine. Also, you can get folic acid from the food that you consume. But, it is hard to take all the needed amount of folic acid just with foods. The best and easiest way for you to be sure that you are getting enough folic acid is to take a vitamin with folic acid.
- If you suffer from some kind of medical condition, then you need to be sure that it is under control. Some of these conditions include epilepsy, thyroid disease, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and asthma. You need to be sure that your vaccinations are up to date.
Health care do’s and don’ts:
Below are given some health care which you can do and which you cannot do as part of your prenatal care:
- You need to get a flu shot. Pregnant women can easily get very sick from the flu and they will need hospital care, so you should not risk it.
- You need to avoid X – rays. If you must have diagnostic tests or dental work, then you need to tell your doctor or dentist that you are pregnant, so he can take extra care of you.
- You need to talk with your doctor before you stop using some of the medicines which you are already taking or if you want to use new medicines. You need to remember that some medicines are not safe during pregnancy. Also, herbal products and over–the–counter medicines can cause side effects or other problems. But, not using medicines can be also harmful, so be sure to ask your doctor before you decide.
- Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 400 – 800 mcg of folic acid on daily basis. Folic acid is most important to be taken in the early stages of pregnancy, but you need to take it throughout pregnancy.
- Get early and regular prenatal care, no matter if it is your first pregnancy, second or third. Early care is extremely important for you and your baby. Your doctor will make sure that you and your baby are healthy in every visit. If there are any problems with you or your baby, then early action can help both of you.
Food do’s and don’ts:
Here are given some foods which you can consume and others which you need to avoid:
- You should not eat fish with lots of mercury, such as tilefish, shark, king mackerel, and swordfish.
- You need to protect yourself and your baby from foodborne illnesses, such as listeria and toxoplasmosis. This is a reason why you need to wash fruits and vegetables before eating. You should not eat undercooked or uncooked fish or meat. You need always to cook, clean, handle, store and eat foods properly.
- You need to get all the nutrients which you need on daily basis, including iron. When you get enough iron, then it will prevent you from getting anemia, which is linked to low birth weight and preterm birth. You need to eat different healthy foods because they will help your baby to get all the nutrients that it needs. You need to ask your doctor if you need to take a daily prenatal vitamin or iron supplement, so you will be sure that you are getting enough.
- You need to eat different types of healthy foods. You should choose foods low in saturated fat, calcium-rich foods, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Also, you should drink a lot of fluids, especially water.
Lifestyle do’s and don’ts:
Below are given things that you can do and things that you cannot do as part of your prenatal care:
- You should ask your doctor about childbirth education classes for you and your partner. Classes can help you to be prepared more for the birth of your baby.
- It is important to get informed about your pregnancy. You need to read books, watch videos, go to a childbirth class, and talk with your mother about what she knows.
- You need to find a way to control your stress and you need to get a lot of sleep.
- You should not take very hot baths or use saunas or hot tubs.
- You need to try at least two hours and thirty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a day unless your doctor has told you not to do it. It is recommended to spread your workouts throughout the week. If you have worked out before pregnancy, then you can keep up your activity level as long as your health does not change, but talk with your doctor about your activity level throughout your pregnancy.
- You should not smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs because they can cause long–term harm or death to your baby. If you cannot do it on your own, then you need to ask your doctor for help.
- It is important to gain weight but at healthy intervals. Your doctor will tell you how much weight you can gain during the pregnancy, so in this way, you and your baby will be healthy.
Environmental do’s and don’ts:
Here are some environmental factors which you can avoid and others that can help you in prenatal care:
- You need to stay away from secondhand smoke.
- You need to take steps to avoid illness, such as washing your hands frequently.
- You need to avoid contact with rodents, including your pet rodents, and with their urine, nesting material, or dropping. It is known that rodents can carry a virus that can be harmful or even deadly for your unborn baby.
- If you have a cat, then talk with your doctor about toxoplasmosis. This is an infection, which is caused by a parasite sometimes found in cat feces. If toxoplasmosis is not treated, then it could lead to birth defects. You will avoid your risk of getting toxoplasmosis by wearing gloves when you are gardening and avoiding cat litter.
- You need to stay away from chemicals, like solvents, lead, insecticides, mercury, and insecticides.