Every parent wants to have a healthy baby. Planned pregnancy not only helps parents to be well-informed and well-prepared at every stage of pregnancy, it can also improve a woman’s ability to deliver a healthy baby.
Preconception health means knowing how a woman’s health could affect her unborn child should she become pregnant. For example, some foods, habits, medical conditions, and medicines can harm your baby – even before conception.
According to Womenshealth.gov, every woman should be taking care of her health regardless of whether or not she is planning pregnancy. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are not planned. Unplanned pregnancies are at greater risk of preterm birth and low-birth weight babies. Another reason is that, despite important advances in medicine and prenatal care, about 1 in 8 babies is born too early. Researchers are trying to find out why and how to prevent preterm birth. But experts agree that women need to be healthier before becoming pregnant. By taking action on health issues and risks before pregnancy, you can prevent problems that might affect you or your baby later.
How to Choose a Preconception or Prenatal Care Provider
Your choices for a provider include obstetricians (OB), family practice doctors, and midwives (certified nurse-midwives and certified professional midwives). It’s important to make sure the provider you choose is right for you. He or she should have a good reputation, listen to your concerns and questions, and respect you at all times. Your provider should be willing and able to give you information and support needed to make informed choices about the best care for you and your baby. When planning to become pregnant, it is important that you see your provider on a regular basis.
During pregnancy, regular checkups are very important. This consistent care can help keep you and your baby healthy, spot problems if they occur, and prevent problems during delivery.
Typically, routine checkups occur:
Once each month for weeks 4 through 28
Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36
Weekly for weeks 36 to birth
Women with high-risk pregnancies need to see their doctors more often. At your first visit your doctor will perform a full physical exam, take your blood for lab tests, and calculate your due date. Your doctor might also do a breast exam, a pelvic exam to check your uterus (womb), and a cervical exam, including a Pap test. During this first visit, your doctor will ask you lots of questions about your lifestyle, relationships, and health habits. It’s important to be honest with your doctor.
After the first visit, most prenatal visits will include
Checking your blood pressure and weight
Checking the baby’s heart rate
Measuring your abdomen to check your baby’s growth
You will also have some routine tests throughout your pregnancy, such as tests to check for anemia, tests to measure risk of gestational diabetes, and tests to look for harmful infections.
Become a partner with your doctor to manage your care. Keep all of your appointments — every one is important! Ask questions and read to educate yourself about this exciting time