Prenatal care involves medical care that’s designed for the needs of pregnant women. This care includes specialized office visits, tests, and education that help you and your baby stay healthy as you navigate changes from the beginning of pregnancy through birth.
Scheduling your first prenatal visit as early as possible and following up as your provider advises can help prevent complications and support a safe delivery. In addition to examinations that evaluate the health of you and your baby, these appointments give you the chance to discuss your concerns about each new phase of pregnancy.
Caring for expectant mothers and their unborn babies is a specialty of board-certified OB/GYN Daniel Esteves, MD, and his staff in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Whether your pregnancy is considered normal or high-risk, our team provides the type of prenatal care you need at every stage of prenatal development. Our professional and caring staff ensures that you feel comfortable and confident about the care you receive for yourself and your unborn baby.
How prenatal care makes a difference
You may think that you don’t need prenatal care if you feel fine and your unborn baby is growing and active. However, your unborn baby changes at an increasing rate as your pregnancy progresses. Without medical training and special diagnostic equipment, it’s virtually impossible to be sure that everything is going smoothly.
While some problems can’t be avoided, prenatal care can help identify complications early and protect your baby from preventable health problems. The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that babies who developed without prenatal care are three times more likely to experience low birth weight, which is less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. These babies are also five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who received prenatal care.
A low birth weight baby has a higher risk of serious health problems at birth as well as long-term health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes throughout their lives. Low birth weight babies are also more likely to have delayed motor, physical, and social development.
Regular prenatal care monitors your baby’s growth to help prevent the two most common causes of low birth weight, which include premature birth (earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy) and fetal growth restriction (failure to gain weight before birth).
Dr. Esteves also examines your body for the development of complications such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure, which could affect the health of you and your unborn baby.
Elements of prenatal care
Prenatal care involves office visits that include a physical exam, along with evaluations aligned to your stage of pregnancy and personal medical condition. The format of your visits may change as you advance in your pregnancy or develop health conditions that require specific monitoring.
While the details of each visit may differ depending on your condition, a prenatal appointment typically involve the following procedures:
- Measurement of your weight and blood pressure
- Evaluation of a urine sample
- Measurement of your abdomen to monitor your baby’s growth
- Doppler ultrasound to evaluate your baby’s heart rate
- Discussion of the need for blood tests or other tests if necessary
- Education on your current stage of pregnancy
- Time for you to ask questions or address concerns
Frequency of prenatal visits
Women who are healthy and have pregnancies without complications typically have about 15 prenatal care office visits. Since changes happen more rapidly toward the end of pregnancy, your visits get closer together as you approach your baby’s birth.
Most women who have uncomplicated pregnancies follow this schedule of visits to achieve comprehensive prenatal care:
- Weeks 4-28: one visit every four weeks
- Weeks 28-36: one visit every two weeks
- Weeks 36-40: one visit every week
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you may require more frequent prenatal visits. Characteristics of a high-risk pregnancy can include being age 35 or older during pregnancy, having multiple babies, or having a pre-existing health condition like asthma or diabetes.
The start of new health conditions for you or your baby may also mean that your prenatal care involves more office visits, prenatal testing, and additional specialized monitoring.
Whether you’re pregnant or hoping to be, find out how prenatal care can help you give your baby the best possible start to a healthy life. To schedule a consultation, call Dr. Esteves or request an appointment online today.