Resources > Health >

Pregnancy and Prenatal Health Care
Migyul Magazine, Issue 3, Fall 2004

As soon as you suspect that you are pregnant, schedule an appointment with your pregnancy healthcare provider. Even if you’ve confirmed your suspicion with a home pregnancy test kit, it’s still wise to follow-up with a doctor’s appointment. This will ensure that you and your baby get off to a good start.

Prenatal Care & its Importance To ensure good health for you and your baby, regular appointments with your healthcare provider throughout your pregnancy is important. Prenatal care includes education on pregnancy and childbirth, plus counseling and support in addition to medical care. Frequent visits to your healthcare provider allows you to follow the progress of your baby’s development. Visits also give you the opportunity to ask questions. Also, most healthcare providers welcome your partner at each visit or interested family members. Your First Medical Visit The first visit is designed to confirm your pregnancy and determine your general health. In addition, the visit will give your healthcare provider clues to any risk factors that may affect your pregnancy. It will typically be longer than future visits.

The purpose of the initial visit is to:

  • Determine your due date
  • Find out your health history
  • Explore the medical history of family members to find any hereditary diseases
  • Determine if you have any pregnancy risk factors based on your age, health and/or personal and family history

Do not hesitate to ask your provider any questions. Most likely, those are the questions your health care providers hear most often!

You will be asked about previous pregnancies and surgeries, medical conditions and exposure to any contagious diseases if any. Notify your healthcare provider about any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) you have taken or are currently taking.

Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor during your appointment.
  • What is my Due date?
  • Do I need prenatal vitamins?
  • Are the symptoms I’m experiencing normal?
  • Is it normal not to experience certain symptoms?
  • Is there anything I can take for morning sickness?
  • What are the specific recommendations regarding weight gain, exercises and nutrition?
  • What activities, foods and substances (for example, medicine, caffeine, and alternative sweeteners like Equal) should I avoid?
  • Can I have sex while I am pregnant?
  • For what symptoms should I call you?
  • What is a high-risk pregnancy?
  • Am I considered to be high risk?

The first prenatal visit can be exciting yet stressful. With all the poking and prodding and the uncertainty of test results, it is bound to get any mom-to-be nervous. Keep in mind, all these tests are routine. If you have any questions about these tests or what the test results may mean, talk to your healthcare provider. If you know when your baby was conceived, you may have already estimated your baby’s due date. At your first prenatal exam, your health care provider will ask you questions to try to predict your due date as precisely as possible. Knowing your baby’s due date can help in many ways. It helps to monitor your baby’s growth more accurately. Because certain laboratory tests change throughout your pregnancy, knowing an accurate due date will also allow your provider to track these tests better. It also helps your doctor to manage pre-term labor if it occurs.

How to calculate my Expected Date of Delivery (EDD)?

Normally, your due date is 280 days (40 weeks or about 10 months [yes, 10 months!]) from the first day of your last period. However, if your periods are not regular or are not 28 days in cycle, your due date may be different from the “280-day rule.” Your health care provider may order an ultrasound to more accurately determine your due date. If you are certain of your conception date (the date when you got pregnant), please tell your health care provider. This information can be helpful in determining your estimated date of delivery (EDD).

A full-term pregnancy lasts from 37 to 42 weeks, so your actual date of delivery can be different from your estimated date of delivery, which is sometimes called estimated date of confinement, or EDC. A very small number of babies are actually born on their due dates.

What Are Prenatal Vitamins?

For a mother’s health, and the health of her baby, she is advised to take so-called “prenatal vitamins.” These are specially formulated multivitamins that make up for any nutritional deficiencies in the mother’s diet during pregnancy. While the supplements contain numerous vitamins and minerals, their folic acid, iron, and calcium content are especially important.

Why the need for High Levels of Folic Acid, Iron and Calcium?

Folic acid can reduce the risk of having a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain and spinal cord, called the “neural tube.” A baby with Spina-bifida, the most common neural tube defect, is born with a spine that is not closed. The exposed nerves are damaged, leaving the child with varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and sometimes mental retardation. There are natural sources of folic acid: green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and citrus fruits. It’s also found in many fortified breakfast cereals and some vitamin supplements.

Calcium during pregnancy can prevent a new mother from losing her own bone density as the fetus uses the mineral for bone growth. Iron helps both the mother and baby’s blood carry oxygen. While a daily vitamin supplement is no substitute for a healthy diet, most women need supplements to make sure they get adequate levels of these minerals.

What should I do if my prenatal vitamin makes me nauseous?

Some prenatal vitamins can cause nausea in an already nauseous woman. If the prenatal vitamins make you sick, talk to your health care provider. He or she may be able to prescribe a different kind of prenatal vitamins (for example, chewable vitamins as opposed to those you swallow whole may be better tolerated by some women).

When should I contact my doctor?

Call your health care provider right away if you have:

  • Unusual or severe cramping or abdominal pain
  • Noticeable changes in your baby’s movement after 28 weeks gestation (if you don’t count 10 movements in 2 hours or less)
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath that seems to be getting worse

Signs of premature labor are:

  • Regular tightening or pain in the lower abdomen or back
  • Any bleeding in the second or third trimester
  • Fluid leak
  • Pressure in the pelvis or vagina

Call your health care provider if you have any of the following conditions during pregnancy:

  • A fever over 100° Fahrenheit
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Fainting spells or dizziness
  • Pain, burning or trouble urinating
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Swelling in your hands, fingers or face
  • Blurred vision or spots before your eyes
  • Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples
  • Severe headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain or cramping in your arms, legs or chest.