Prenatal Care

prenatal care

Help for a Healthy Pregnancy

Prenatal care is vital for the health of a mother and baby and significantly reduces risk factors associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Prenatal care includes nutrition counseling, ultrasounds, and routine diagnostic testing to identify and treat complications early. Many women suffer from complications such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, blood type problems, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It's important for the success of a pregnancy to seek a healthcare provider who specializes in prenatal, delivery, and postpartum services. Obstetricians and midwives handle most normal pregnancies while high-risk obstetricians (maternal-fetal medicine doctors) specialize in high-risk pregnancies.

Prenatal care goals:

  • Monitor progress of pregnancy
  • Assess risk factors
  • Provide nutritional counseling
  • Recommend or restrict certain activities and/or exercises
  • Discuss common pregnancy symptoms and discomfort
  • Prescribe medication when needed

Specialties

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a vitamin of the B complex found in many leafy green vegetables. It is used to make extra blood in the body to sustain a growing baby. Folic acid intake during gestation is very important to improve heart health and prevent serious birth defects. Women planning pregnancy, or who are currently pregnant, should eat a nutritious diet and take folic acid supplements. Many obstetricians will prescribe prenatal vitamins in conjunction with a folic acid supplement to encourage a healthy pregnancy. The amount of folic acid prescribed varies from patient and is determined by risk factors and genetic disposition.

Use of Medication

Pregnant women are advised to discontinue use of all medications, unless otherwise cleared by the authorizing healthcare provider. Pregnant women should also avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking to prevent serious birth defects, illnesses, and abnormalities that may result. Caffeine, herbal preparations, and even over-the-counter medications should be strictly limited to avoid interference with the developing fetus.

Prenatal Exams

Prenatal visits are usually scheduled every six weeks during your first trimester and every two to four weeks from 28 to 36 weeks of gestation. After 36 weeks until delivery, appointments are scheduled weekly. During a routine exam, a physician or nurse practitioner will record and changes in weight, blood pressure, fundal height, and baby’s heart beat. Routine urine screening and blood work may be requested upon visits as well.

When to Call your Doctor

You should call your doctor if you are pregnant, or think you may be pregnant, and are not already receiving prenatal care. Other issues that warrant a phone call to your healthcare provider include taking medicines for diabetes, seizures, or high blood pressure while pregnant, not being able to manage pregnancy symptoms without intervention, or having been exposed to sexually transmitted infections, chemicals, or radiation. Call your doctor immediately if you are pregnant and experience fever, chills, painful urination, vaginal bleeding, emotional trauma, severe abdominal pain, ruptured membranes, or notice the baby is moving less or not at all.

Screening for STIs

Screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is especially important during pregnancy. Young mothers who become infected can unknowingly transmit infections through labor and/or breastfeeding. Because of this, it’s important that you are tested for HIV. In fact, New Jersey law mandates that you be tested early in your pregnancy and again in the third trimester as part of your routine prenatal care. If you come to Virtua to deliver and you have not been tested for HIV, we will test you when we draw your blood for your other lab work. You have the right to opt out of HIV testing. If you do, your baby will be tested. Parents who object to this testing for religious reasons must do so in writing. Ask your healthcare provider about the benefits of these tests for you and your baby as well as your options for care.

Pertussis Vaccination

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be fatal, especially in newborns. In 1/3 of cases, the parent passed the disease to the child. To protect your child, talk to your OB/GYN or family doctor about receiving the vaccine. You should receive the vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks pregnant if you have not been immunized in the last 2 years. Don't forget that dad, or anyone else caring for your baby, should also be immunized.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B is a serious viral infection. When babies get infected, the virus usually remains in the body for a lifetime. Experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and our Virtua physicians recommend that every baby receive the hepatitis B vaccine before leaving the hospital. It is important to vaccinate babies at birth so they will be protected as early as possible from any exposure to hepatitis B. Some parents worry that their baby’s immune system is immature and cannot handle vaccines at such a young age. Actually, as soon as they are born, babies start effectively dealing with trillions of bacteria and viruses. The challenge to their immune system from vaccines is tiny compared to the everyday challenges from living. Begin discussing vaccines, with your baby’s healthcare provider while you are pregnant

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