The birth of a child is always a memorable occasion, but that becomes even more special for first-time parents. For nine (9) months, expectant couples count to the day of their baby’s arrival, excited to see and be with their little bundle of joy while also preparing themselves for the responsibilities of parenthood. Indeed, the process leading to the baby’s delivery can be rather grueling for soon-to-be parents, especially the mother. While carrying the baby in her womb, the mother has to receive prenatal care to ensure both of them are healthy. Regular prenatal care is crucial in preventing any complications from affecting the pregnancy. Learn what prenatal care is and how it contributes to delivering a healthy baby in this infographic.
What is prenatal care?A form of health care, prenatal care refers to looking after the well-being of pregnant women and their developing babies. As such, prenatal visits include physical checks, blood and urine tests, and other types of medical screening to ensure the health of the mother and her baby.
When to See a Healthcare Provider for Prenatal VisitsThe doctor will schedule the expectant mom for a series of prenatal checks for the duration of the pregnancy. Prenatal visits are a good time for the parents to ask questions about the pregnancy and the upcoming birth of their baby. In general, the first prenatal care visit happens once the mother discovers that she is pregnant or she thinks she might be. Here, the doctor will perform a thorough check on the mother’s physical health, including her height, weight, and blood pressure. It is also likely the doctor will recommend laboratory tests and physical exams such as a breast exam, pelvic exam, and Pap smear test, among others. The succeeding visits for someone receiving prenatal care may be scheduled:
- Every four (4) weeks until the 28th week or one (1) prenatal visit in a month
- Every two (2) weeks until the 36th week or one (1) prenatal visit every two (2) weeks
- Every week until delivery or one (1) prenatal visit every week
Important Factors in Prenatal CarePrenatal care comes with tremendous value, as it offers holistic medical care for pregnant women and their babies. Not only does prenatal care focus on medical checkups and screening tests, but it also involves educating mothers about the different aspects of pregnancy, which are equally important in delivering a healthy baby. As such, prenatal care activities and discussions with the healthcare provider also focus on the following areas: Nutrition: Proper diet and nutrition are essential during pregnancy, as babies’ nourishment depends on their mothers. Healthy eating enables the mother to consume essential nutrients to pass to the developing baby. Depending on the mother’s health status, the doctor may suggest dietary adjustments such as avoiding or eating more of certain foods. Sleep: An expectant mother is prone to feeling tired more quickly due to the baby’s growth and other changes happening inside their body. Sleep is one way to let the mother’s mind and body recover from pregnancy-related stress or fatigue and feel more relaxed. Weight gain: It is common for pregnant women to put on extra weight coming from the baby, the placenta, the amniotic fluid, and stored fat, among others. Here, weight management is vital for a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. However, weight management in pregnancy aims not to lose weight but to ensure that the mother is neither underweight nor overweight. Exercise: Exercising during pregnancy helps promote weight management, improved sleep, and higher energy levels—all of which can contribute to a healthy body before, during, and after childbirth. Hydration: Expectant mothers need more water than the average person to carry nutrients to the placenta and help form the amniotic sac and fluid. Moreover, it prevents pregnancy complications brought about by dehydration. Vitamin and mineral supplements: Besides following a nutrient-rich diet, taking prenatal vitamins and minerals can contribute to excellent health for the mother and her child. Doctors typically prescribe supplements that contain calcium for bone and muscle development, iron for hemoglobin production, and folic acid for proper development of the central nervous system.
How to Stay Healthy During PregnancyRegardless if the family is expecting their first child or not, pregnancy can be easier to navigate with the adoption of these healthy habits:
Maintain a healthy dietPregnant mothers would do well to stick to a balanced diet composed of meat or meat substitutes, grains, healthy dairy, fruits, and vegetables when planning meals. Since pregnancy symptoms like nausea or vomiting can affect the mother’s appetite, knowing what foods trigger them can help the pregnant body cope better.
Take prenatal vitamins dailyPrenatal vitamins boost the supply of essential nutrients for both the mom and her baby, especially if the mother is not getting enough of them in their daily diets. Ideally, pregnant women should take folic acid at least 400mcg/day, 600mg of calcium, and 30mg of elemental iron.
Avoid certain foods such as raw meat, alcohol, and caffeineA healthy pregnancy diet does not only include the best foods to eat but also avoids food items that can cause harm to pregnant individuals:
- Raw or undercooked meats — The bacteria or parasites found in these foods can cause infections or illnesses, potentially leading to stillbirth, miscarriage, or organ damage for the baby.
- Caffeine — The risk of miscarriage may increase with excessive consumption of caffeine, including coffee, tea, and soda. Decaf or caffeine-free alternatives and limited amounts of chocolate can be an option, depending on the doctor’s advice.
- Alcohol — Passing along consumed alcohol to developing babies can have dire consequences on their physical and mental health.