The Importance of Prenatal Care
When is the right time to start prenatal care? Should I talk to my OB/GYN if I am trying to get pregnant? Why is it important to see my OB/GYN so often when I am pregnant? These questions pass through the minds of many women who are thinking about trying to have a baby or those who are already pregnant.
Dr. Adeline Nukuna, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology physician with Beebe Healthcare, has your answers.
Due to COVID-19, you can expect extra precautions at your prenatal visit. These include temperature scans via a forehead scan, additional screening questions, Plexiglas at reception areas, and hand sanitizer being available for regular use. Everyone must wear a face covering at all Beebe locations. At Beebe Healthcare, we are working hard to keep you safe during the pandemic.
Question: When should I first talk to my OB/GYN about pregnancy?
Dr. Nukuna: It is important to start the conversation with your doctor even before you are pregnant. Your doctor may have some recommendations for you prior to your pregnancy, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or education on topics surrounding your pregnancy and future baby.
Most pregnancies lead to good outcomes, for both mom and fetus. However, in some cases, there are risks or potential complications. By visiting your care provider before you get pregnant, you can start planning ahead and getting an idea of how your pregnancy may go. In addition, it is recommended for those considering getting pregnant to start taking folic acid at least four weeks in advance.
Question: When should I start prenatal care?
Dr. Nukuna: As soon as you have a positive pregnancy test, it is important to see your doctor. We can do additional tests to confirm the pregnancy and we can start prenatal care appointments to insure the health of your baby. There are certain tests that your doctor may order, such as blood tests, ultrasounds, and fetal testing. Prenatal appointments also give your care team the opportunity to be able to determine or confirm how far along you are in pregnancy (also known as gestational age) and establish a due date (also known as expected date of delivery).
Not all medicines are safe for pregnant women, so we will want to discuss what medications you are on right from the beginning to plan for all stages of your pregnancy and birth.
Question: Why is prenatal care so important?
Dr. Nukuna: Prenatal care can lead to prevention. It helps the doctor identify patients who may have risks or complications during pregnancy. This conversation can go a long way to helping the mother prepare for pregnancy. By starting the discussion early, we are able to help you plan your pregnancy and take steps to have the healthiest baby possible!
Question: What kind of complications are possible during pregnancy?
Dr. Nukuna: Prenatal care provides an opportunity for management of pregnancy complications.
Examples of such complications include hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, gestational diabetes, cervical insufficiency, fetal growth restriction. We are able to help manage many of these complications which can make for an easier pregnancy for the mother and a healthier birth.
In addition, plans can be made on how to manage the newborn, if necessary. For example, the patient might need to see additional specialists who will help you plan for your birth while you are pregnant.
Question: What health issues that I have could mean complications during pregnancy?
Dr. Nukuna: All mothers are different. Those with pre-existing conditions may need to have additional testing or care by their medical team. Here are some examples of medical conditions that might require an early assessment or special planning:
- Multiple pregnancy losses
- History of fetal death with previous pregnancy
- Preterm labor
- Preterm delivery
- Cervical insufficiency
- History of gestational diabetes
- History of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy
- History of surgery to cervix (LEEP, cone biopsy)
- History of surgery for fibroid removal
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Depression or mental illnesses
Question: What should I expect during my prenatal visits?
Dr. Nukuna: Your OB provider will:
- Ask if you are having any issues, problems, or concerns - including screening questions for COVID-19
- Assess your baby’s heartbeat (once you are at least 11-12 weeks pregnant)
- Discuss your growing baby’s growth and development
- Discuss the results of any tests you had done
- Review any medications you are taking
- Answer any questions you may have
- Initiate any intervention and/or order any tests you may need
- Make sure that your individualized plan for your pregnancy care is being followed.
Your care team at Beebe Healthcare is committed to you and your growing baby’s wellbeing. Every patient is important to us. We want all future moms to be healthy and have healthy babies. So get a preconception visit with your physician and get your prenatal care. More importantly, actively participate in your prenatal care. Write down your questions/concerns, bring them to your prenatal visits, and discuss them with your provider.