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Prenatal Care: How It Helps You and What to Expect

A pregnant woman

Prenatal care is the cornerstone of a healthy and safe pregnancy. Doctors recommend that you begin prenatal visits early in your pregnancy and that you make it to all of your scheduled checkups throughout your pregnancy. Good prenatal care helps keep you and your baby healthy and promotes a healthy birth.

If you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consider these important reasons for good prenatal care and what to expect for your first visit.

The Benefits of Prenatal Care

Not sure you should go to the doctor? Here's why you need to keep your appointments.

Prenatal Care Reduces the Risk of Pregnancy Complications

Visiting your obstetrician for your scheduled prenatal checkups helps lower the risk of complications during your pregnancy. Your doctor monitors many aspects of your health in order to detect potential problems early so that appropriate management can begin if something is detected.

Gestational diabetes and iron-deficiency anemia are two conditions that pregnant women may experience. Both can be managed well when caught early. If you develop pregnancy-related conditions that are not caught and managed early on, your risk of delivery complications such as excess bleeding increases. 

Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause your baby to grow too large due to excess insulin secretion. It can also cause premature birth and preeclampsia - a condition where your blood pressure remains too high during pregnancy.

Regular prenatal visits play a vital role in detecting these conditions so that they can be managed to keep you and your baby safe. 

Prenatal Care Monitors Your Baby's Development

Your prenatal care plan also involves careful monitoring of your baby's development. How fast or slow your baby is growing is an indicator of healthy development. Your baby undergoes significant development with each week of your pregnancy and prenatal visits help ensure that each stage of development is going well. 

With each trimester you'll always know how your baby is doing and have the opportunity to ask your obstetrician questions about your baby's development. 

Fetuses follow a predictable course of development and most baby's develop normally from start to finish. However, when developmental issues arise early detection is important. Your doctor will alert you to issues, such as genetic disorders like Down syndrome.

Prenatal Care Includes Nutrition Counseling

Eating enough of the right foods to nourish yourself and your growing baby is important for a healthy pregnancy and the proper development of your baby. Good prenatal care includes nutrition counseling to educate you on the importance of proper nutrition during your pregnancy.

You'll need more of certain nutrients while you're pregnant, including more protein, iron, folate, and calcium. You'll also need to eat a few hundred more calories each day. A healthy eating pattern during pregnancy includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, eggs, and lean cuts of poultry and meat. 

Your care team will educate you on avoiding fish that is high in mercury, such as swordfish, ahi tuna, and orange roughy.

What to Expect at Your First Prenatal Visit

The first prenatal visit is usually longer than the rest of your checkups. Your doctor may order a series of blood tests to screen for conditions such as anemia. Your doctor will take a detail of your medical history and conduct an exam to check your general health. 

You can expect to have your weight and blood pressure checked as well. An exciting part of your first appointment is that the doctor will calculate your estimated date of delivery. Most babies are not born on their exact due dates, but you'll have a good estimation. 

The goal of your first prenatal appointment is to check your overall health and identify any factors that may put you or your baby at risk during your pregnancy. 

Your and your baby's health are a top priority. Dr. Despres and his care team at Aloma Park OBGYN , PA, offer superior services and state-of-the-art prenatal care.