Prenatal Care and Tests
Prenatal care is medical checkups and routine tests you will have to help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. It also involves education and counseling about how to handle different aspects of your pregnancy. During your visits, your doctor may discuss many issues, such as healthy eating and physical activity, screening tests you might need, and what to expect during labor and delivery.
During pregnancy, regular checkups are very important. Regular prenatal care can help keep you and your baby healthy, spot problems if they occur, and prevent complications during delivery. First prenatal care visit will be around 8 weeks from your last menstrual period.
The following is the recommended schedule of prenatal checkup visits:
- Weeks 4 to 28: Once a month
- Weeks 28 to 36: Twice a month
- Weeks 36 to childbirth: Weekly
Women with high-risk pregnancies need to see their prenatal care doctor more often.
What Happens At Your First Prenatal Care Visit
At your first prenatal care visit your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, take your blood for lab tests, and calculate your due date. Your doctor may also do a breast exam, a pelvic exam to check your uterus (womb), and a cervical exam. He/she may also do a Pap smear test.
During the first visit, your doctor will ask you a lot of questions about your existing health conditions or diseases, lifestyle habits, diet, and medications you are taking. It is very important to tell everything to your doctor. It is equally important to ask questions to clear your doubts if any and to educate yourself about this exciting time.
After the first visit, most prenatal visits will include:
- Checking your weight and blood pressure
- Checking your baby’s heart rate
- Measuring your abdomen to check your baby’s growth
Your prenatal care doctor will also do some routine tests throughout your pregnancy, such as tests to look for anemia, tests to assess the risk of gestational diabetes, and tests to look for harmful infections.