6 Tips for Easier Prenatal Care Visits
When you’re pregnant, seeing a doctor or midwife for prenatal care is important for your and your baby’s health. You’ll need to attend many prenatal visits throughout your pregnancy. And each one is crucial.
Find a doctor or midwife early in your pregnancy and then visit them according to the prenatal visit schedule they recommend. Routine care helps reduce prenatal health problems and prevent maternal death, says Sarah Pollock, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Routine prenatal care allows your doctor to monitor you and your baby throughout the pregnancy. This is how they can diagnose and address issues early and prevent serious complications, says Allison A. Urrutia, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Austin Regional Clinic in Texas. “It also allows patients to discuss plans for delivery and receive education on breastfeeding and care for newborn and self after delivery.”
Even quick prenatal doctor visits where not much seems to happen are essential to attend. “Boring prenatal visits are okay,” says Clayton Alfonso, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina. “That means your pregnancy is healthy and things are going as expected.”
It’s not always easy to make it to every visit. These prenatal care tips can help make getting there easier.
1. Schedule Your Prenatal Care Appointments Wisely
If you have a busy schedule, you probably don’t want to waste time in the waiting room.
Smart scheduling can help.
“The early morning appointments and the first appointments after lunch are almost always perfectly on time,” says Alfonso. Specifically ask for these, since the first appointment may be at a different time for each provider. Some might start seeing patients at 7 a.m. and others might start at 8 a.m., for example.
And if you have special scheduling needs, flexible hours are key. It can help to find a practice that has a variety of availability, says Pollock.
Some offer lunchtime appointments or days where they open early or stay open later in the evening. Some may even offer Saturday appointments.
2. Get a Note from Your Provider
Frequent appointments can become challenging with some people’s work schedules. Your employer may be more understanding about the time you miss if you have a doctor’s note.
“If we need to, we can write notes to get you out of work,” says Pollock. “A lot of employers really understand the importance of these visits.”
3. Bring the Kids
If you have children, finding childcare for your appointments may be another challenge. Before you see the doctor or midwife, ask the receptionist if it’s okay for the kids to come with you.
“Since the pandemic, many offices are now allowing patients to bring children if necessary,” says Urrutia.
If you do bring a child, also bring something to keep them busy during the appointment. That way, you can focus on important conversations with your provider.
4. Line Up Transportation
Know exactly how you’ll get to each appointment. If you don’t have transportation, there are some things you can do:
- Ask a friend or family member to drive you.
- Get to know the public transit system in your area. Give yourself plenty of travel time for transfers and potential delays, says Alfonso.
- Use a rideshare service like Lyft or Uber, or take a taxi.
- Get transportation assistance. “If you qualify for Medicaid, there is assistance for transportation to appointments and to the pharmacy,” says Urrutia. Contact your Medicaid insurance provider for more information. Your doctor’s office may have a social worker or caseworker who can help you find out which transportation benefits are available to you, says Alfonso.
- Get a ride from a nonprofit. Some churches and local organizations provide rides to people with medical needs. Ask around or try searching FindHelp.org to find one near you.
5. Ask About Virtual Prenatal Care Visits
If you have a healthy pregnancy, you may be able to do some of your visits virtually. Ask your doctor or midwife if this is an option for you.
You must be low risk, feel your baby moving, and monitor your own blood pressure at home, says Pollock.
It’s also important you have access to reliable broadband internet or quality cell phone service, says Alfonso.
6. Prepare Well for Each Visit
Your prenatal checkups will go much more smoothly if you’re prepared. Be ready to discuss anything that’s on your mind. This includes questions or concerns, or ideas about your birth plan. It’s a good idea to make a list of things you want to talk about and questions you have.
“Having you empowered in your birth experience improves your outcome. And our biggest goal is for you and the baby to be healthy and safe,” emphasizes Pollock. “So talking about this throughout your visits can be really critical for a good birth experience and good outcome.”
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