Why Prenatal Visits Are So Important
Maybe you feel fine. Or you’re busy. Or your doctor’s office is far away. Or you don’t love going there. But there’s no good reason to skip prenatal visits. They’re important for your health and your baby’s health too.
It’s important to follow that schedule closely throughout your pregnancy. There are a few reasons regular prenatal care is good for you and your baby.
They May Help Prevent Problems
“You want to be on top of your appointments,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “Things may be happening that you’re unaware are going on. Things could be impacting the baby’s health that you may not notice.”
Those include issues that could cause preterm birth, stillbirth, and delivery complications.
Catching Issues Early Is Key
It’s not enough to just go to a few appointments. Regular visits throughout the pregnancy help your doctor or midwife catch issues that could turn into serious problems.
“Some problems are much easier to deal with when discovered early,” says Minkin.
She gives the example of preeclampsia, which is a high blood pressure condition. It’s a serious pregnancy complication that poses dangerous risks. But blood pressure checks at prenatal visits help doctors find signs early. If the condition is found early, a provider can take steps to help protect you and your baby.
Other checks include testing your urine for signs of gestational diabetes and infections. These can happen even if you don’t have any symptoms. Another example is measuring your belly to check on the baby’s growth and fluid level.
Things Are Constantly Changing
Your body is changing—and your baby is developing rapidly. Even if your pregnancy started with no issues, or you’ve given birth without complications before, things can change.
“Even with a healthy pregnancy, we don’t know when complications can arise,” says Lori Anderson, a certified nurse-midwife at University of Missouri Ob/Gyn Associates at Women’s Hospital in Columbia. Preeclampsia, for example, can show up quickly. “It can occur from one day to the next,” Anderson says.
You Can Stay on Top of Testing
Prenatal tests help providers learn valuable information about your and your baby’s health. Each test has its own timing throughout the pregnancy. The provider will guide you on what tests you need when you need them.
For example, early in pregnancy, you’ll get screened for your blood type, any STDs, anemia, and vitamin deficiencies. If there are any issues, you can be treated for them. In the third trimester, you’ll get screened for gestational diabetes and Group B strep. These are conditions that are important to treat as well, says Minkin.
You’ll Learn a Lot
Prenatal appointments can be educational. “You can learn what to expect as your pregnancy progresses, what is normal, when to seek medical care, and what to expect during the delivery,” says Kelly Culwell, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn who practices in San Diego. “You can also learn a lot about staying healthy during pregnancy.”
It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions for your provider to answer.
You’ll Have Support for Your Mental Health
Anderson says her practice screens patients for prenatal depression, and they see it often.
If there’s a mental health concern, your provider can help you find support. They may also be able to prescribe you treatment, such as antidepressants.
Minkin adds that screening for depression can also prevent postpartum depression. “We can intervene early and warn the family so they can know what to pay attention to after delivery,” she says.
Going to every prenatal appointment might not always be easy. But your and your baby’s health and safety depend on it.
“Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who receive prenatal care,” says Jeni Rector. Rector is a certified professional midwife at the Village Midwife and Birth Center in Newport News, Virginia.
Plus, each visit can help you feel more confident about delivering a healthy baby. “The medical part takes five minutes,” Rector says. “It’s talking and asking questions and getting to know each other that takes up the rest of the time. It’s so worth it.”
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