Prenatal care refers to the type of healthcare you get while you’re pregnant. It helps keep you and your baby healthy from conception all the way through to delivery. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, babies of mothers who don’t have prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight, and five times more likely to die, than mothers who do.
The reason for this is simple. Prenatal care allows health professionals, such as midwives, to identify potential issues early. In many cases, this means they can be prevented from occurring, treated effectively, or managed appropriately. According to a 2009 study into prenatal care, published by Gina Novick, CNM, women find the best results when they develop meaningful relationships with the professionals and are active participants in their care. We’re here to help you along the way.
Have questions about prenatal care? Call our certified midwives.
What prenatal care to expect in each trimester
As your baby grows and develops, you’ll need different types of prenatal care:
Trimester 1 (Conception to 12 weeks)
Ideally, you should schedule your first prenatal care appointment as soon as you suspect you’re pregnant, or as soon as you decide you’re going to try to get pregnant. A 2018 study, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found more than 77% of American women initiate prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy. The midwife will take a thorough medical history, to identify any risk factors, so be prepared to talk about things like gynecological or obstetric issues you’ve had in the past, your family, your lifestyle, medication use, and your nutrition.
Lots of things happen at this stage. The midwife will conduct a physical exam, which will typically include things like blood pressure, weight, a pelvic exam, and a general health check-up. They may also order some bloodwork, talk to you about any lifestyle issues, and explain what to expect in the months ahead. They will also talk to you about conception and help you figure out the due date.
We recommend you schedule prenatal appointments about once every four weeks for the first trimester so you can discuss any questions or concerns and make sure everything is going well. If you’re feeling some morning sickness, or fatigue, make sure you keep your midwife updated.
Trimester 2 (12 weeks to 24 weeks)
Second-trimester check-ups start by reviewing the basics, with a general check-up, and talking about any concerns you have about your pregnancy. After that, things get really exciting. You will be able to hear your baby’s heart beating for the first time, using a Doppler instrument!
Your midwife will help you track your baby’s growth, by measuring the distance from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus, and they will also assess fetal movement. At this stage, researchers from the Mayo Clinic suggest you might consider some prenatal screenings, such as genetic tests, fetal ultrasounds, and blood tests – however, this is entirely up to you. Around 18-20 weeks, you may start noticing movement, such as flutters or kicks, but this is different for every pregnancy.
Trimester 3 (24 to 40 weeks)
At this stage of pregnancy, your midwife may ask to see you every two or four weeks, depending how things are progressing. Once you reach the 36-week mark, however, you’ll most likely need to come in weekly as your body prepares for labor and delivery.
Your midwife will check the baby’s position, to make sure it’s ready for birth. It’s important you keep your midwife update with any signs and symptoms, such as contractions, fluid leakage, or bleeding, because that could indicate it’s time for your little one to arrive.
Considering an out-of-hospital birth? Read this blog.
Prenatal care is important in all pregnancies
Data from the CDC indicates that 79% of women having first births, 80% of women having second births, and 75% of women having third births received prenatal care in the first trimester. However, that figure drops to 65% for women who have four or more births. Even if you’ve given birth before, it’s important to get prenatal care to make sure everything is as safe as possible.
It’s estimated that about 15% of American women don’t receive adequate prenatal care. However, there are lots of options available that mean you and your baby can be supported as you experience pregnancy and birth your way. Talk to your midwife about the right choice for you.
Have you just found out you’re pregnant? Schedule an appointment today.