Prenatal Medical Care
The importance of early prenatal medical care
As soon as you find out you are pregnant, you should work with your healthcare provider
to set up a schedule of prenatal care. For normal pregnancies without major complications,
prenatal exams are often scheduled as follows:
Every month from the 4th week through the 28th week
Every 2 weeks from the 29th week through the 36th week
Weekly from the 37th week until delivery
This schedule may vary depending on your health and your healthcare provider's preference.
You may need more prenatal care if you have a preexisting health problem, like diabetes.
You may also need more care if problems come up during your pregnancy.
Who provides prenatal care?
Many healthcare providers can provide prenatal care, such as:
Obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN). This healthcare provider has special training in the care of people during pregnancy,
labor, and delivery. An OB/GYN also focuses on many gynecological health issues.
Family physician. This healthcare provider has special training in primary care, including obstetrics.
Nurse practitioner. This type of nurse has special training and can provide healthcare for people assigned
female at birth. Nurse practitioners are certified by either the American Academy
of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Certified nurse midwife (CNM). This type of nurse has additional training to care for people with low-risk pregnancies.
Some midwives work with other healthcare providers while some work on an independent
basis. CNMs are certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives.
Perinatologist. This healthcare provider specializes in high-risk pregnancies. Perinatologists are
also called maternal-fetal specialists.
Obstetricians (and other healthcare providers who specialize in maternal-fetal medicine,
reproductive endocrinology, or infertility) are certified by the American Board of
Obstetrics and Gynecology. Almost 2,000 obstetricians are certified every year.
What happens during the prenatal care visits?
Prenatal care provides the best care for you and your unborn child. It also helps
prepare you for the delivery of a healthy baby. During prenatal visits, you and your
baby will have tests to check for any possible risks and to treat any complications.
Tests will also be done to keep an eye on your baby's growth and development. You
will also get counseling and guidance on many aspects of pregnancy. This includes
weight gain, exercise, nutrition, and overall health. At a typical prenatal visit,
you may have any or all of these:
Blood pressure test
Measurement of the uterus to check for correct growth of the fetus
Physical exam to find problems or discomforts, like swelling of the hands and feet
Urine test to check sugar and protein levels. High levels can be a sign of diabetes
or preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition that causes high blood pressure, high
protein levels, and swelling due to fluid retention. But swelling may not always be
present. And having swelling does not always mean someone has preeclampsia.
Fetal heart rate measurement
Prenatal screening tests like blood tests to check for anemia