On Your Way to a Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life. Most pregnancies are normal and risk-free. However, there are a number of women who require special care due to certain factors, such as negative Rh, gestational diabetes, weight issues, illnesses and disorders.
It is recommended to see an OB/GYN doctor as soon as the woman learns that she is pregnant. The doctor will do a routine screening for blood pressure, urine protein and blood problems to determine whether the woman needs any specialized care right away. A number of tests will be done during the course of her pregnancy that will determine whether the baby is developing normally and if the mother is doing well. Usually, the doctor performs at least one fetal development ultrasound. He or she may request one in the early pregnancy if there are symptoms that require it, such as vaginal bleeding. There are various optional screenings and tests to determine if the baby has any genetic disorders or if the mother’s age presents a high risk.
A pregnant woman should see her doctor every four weeks until she is 30-32 weeks pregnant, then every other week until week 36 and weekly until the baby is born. If there are any concerns, the woman should seek care more often. At each appointment, the doctor will check weight gain, blood pressure and pulse, fundal height and baby’s heartbeat. Urine screenings may be performed at each appointment or as necessary.
During the pregnancy, the doctor’s goal is:
- to monitor the mother and the baby to ensure the pregnancy is going well
- look for problems or concerns that may create risks for either the mother or the baby
- suggest a diet and nutritional requirements
- recommend activity levels or restrictions
- answer questions and concerns regarding the symptoms, such as morning sickness, constipation, frequent urination, backache, heartburn, etc., and how to manage them without the use of medications
- discuss delivery options in special situations, such as breech position of the baby, high weight of the baby, any other situation that may require a c-section
It is important to start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as the woman knows that she is pregnant. Vitamins and folic acid are important to prevent many fetal disorders and birth defects, such as spina bifida. According to the US National Institute of Health, prenatal vitamins should contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. If the woman is at risk for these conditions, she may be prescribed a higher dose of certain vitamins or minerals.
Eating a well-balanced diet is essential because the developing baby will require many nutrients during this process. The mother should avoid smoking, using alcohol and drugs. Caffeine intake should also be limited. Certain medications, even non-prescription ones, are not recommended during pregnancy because they may interfere with the fetal development process. The doctor will give a list of allowed medications. Herbal and homeopathic preparations should also be avoided. The woman should check with her healthcare provider before taking any medication.
It is urgent to call the doctor immediately, if there is any vaginal bleeding of any amount, abdominal pain or if the water breaks. In addition, the woman should contact the doctor if she develops chills, fever or painful urination.
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