What is prenatal care?
Prenatal care is the care you receive while you are pregnant. This includes care given by your healthcare provider, support from your family and an extra focus on giving yourself the care you need during this special time. Good prenatal care gives you the best chance for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
I'm pregnant. When should I call the office?
Going to prenatal exams regularly is an important part of prenatal care. You should call the office as soon as you think or know that you are pregnant. Between six and eight weeks from the day you last started your last period, you will have your first prenatal visit. Please see the next question for details about the visit.
Depending on your health and health history, we will schedule visits at least once a month until you are 28 weeks along. Through week 36, you will see a physician every two weeks and during the last month once a week until you deliver.
Your physician will check at each visit to make sure that you and the baby are healthy. By seeing you regularly, your healthcare provider has the best chance to find any problems early so that they can be treated as soon as possible. In addition to meeting your medical needs, the physician will help you know how to take care of yourself, including having a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and rest, and dealing with the emotional changes that can happen during pregnancy.
What will happen at the first prenatal visit?
Between six and eight weeks, you will have your first prenatal visit. Our nurse practitioner will ask for your personal health history, as well as the health of the father, your family, and the father’s family. This information can help give us an idea of any problems you might encounter during your pregnancy. You will have a physical exam, including height, weight and blood pressure checks. A pelvic exam will also be performed. You will undergo a Pap test, urine test, blood test, tuberculosis test, and cultures of the cervix and vagina. We will calculate your due date and the age of your baby. If your periods were regular before you became pregnant, and you are sure of the first day of your last period, your due date will be estimated to be 40 weeks from the day you started your last period.
What will happen at other prenatal visits?
A Schneck OB/GYN physician will check how you are doing and how the baby is developing. He or she will discuss how you are feeling, ask if you have any problems, and answer your questions. During each prenatal visit, we will weigh you, take your blood pressure, check your urine for sugar, protein, or bacteria, check your face, hands, ankles, and feet for swelling, listen to the baby’s heartbeat, and measure the size of the uterus to be sure the baby is growing well. At different times during the pregnancy, additional exams and tests may be needed. Some are routine and others are done only when a problem is suspected or you have a risk factor for a problem.
Examples of tests you might need are: triple or quad screen tests* to check for genetic problems or birth defects; ultrasounds to check the baby’s growth and health and to look at your uterus, the amniotic sac, and the placenta; blood tests to check for diabetes; electronic monitoring to check the health of the baby via non-stress tests and other types of tests.
*Schneck OB/GYN partners with St. Vincent’s Center for Prenatal Diagnosis for the latest in genetic testing in the first and second trimester. These tests are conducted here in the office and St. Vincent physicians are included via telemedicine.
What are the routine tests and procedures?
The routine tests and procedures done during prenatal visits include: urine or blood test at your first visit, pelvic exam to determine the size of your pelvis and a Pap test of the cervix (usually done only very early in the pregnancy), physical exam including a breast exam, calculation of the gestational age of the baby, measurement of your height, weight and blood pressure, tests of a sample of your urine to look for bacteria, measurement of the height of the fundus (top of your uterus), determination of the size and position of your baby, test of a sample of your urine to look for bacteria in the urine, blood tests to check for anemia, blood tests to check for diabetes when you are 28 weeks pregnant, blood tests for blood type and RH antibodies and to see if you are immune to rubella (a type of measles), blood test for sexually transmitted infections, cultures of cells from your cervix to test for infection, blood test for hepatitis, skin test for tuberculosis, cultures of swabs of the vagina and rectum to test for Group B streptococcus in the 35th and 37th weeks of pregnancy, examination of your ankles and lower legs for swelling.
What foods do I need to eat?
Eating regular, well-balanced meals is more important when you are pregnant than at any other time of your life. What you eat provides food for you baby as well as yourself. You need about 300 more food calories a day than when you were not pregnant. Most pregnant women need about 2200 to 2700 total calories each day. Your healthcare provider will suggest a weight range. The usual recommended gain is about 20 to 25 pounds. Your need for protein increases to about 60 grams a day when you are pregnant. Many women already eat this amount of protein daily when they are not pregnant. However, if you are a vegetarian or eat little meat or dairy, you may not be getting enough protein in your diet. You may also need more vitamins and minerals, especially folic acid and iron. These nutrients are important for your baby’s growth and development. They give your baby strong bones and teeth, healthy skin, and a healthy body. Foods that are excellent sources of protein and vitamins are: beans and peas, nuts, peanut butter, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, cheese, milk and yogurt. Good sources of folic acid (also called folate) are: leafy green vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, fortified breakfast cereals and grains, beans, oranges and strawberries, yellow squash, and tomato juice. Foods rich in iron are: lean red meat, pork, chicken and fish, fortified cereals, dried fruit, leafy green vegetables, beans, eggs, liver, kidneys, and whole-grain or enriched bread.