Prenatal care


Prenatal care

Prenatal care refers to the medical care recommended for women before and during pregnancy. The aim of good prenatal care is to detect any potential problems early, to prevent them if possible (through recommendations on adequate nutrition, exercise, vitamin intake etc), and to direct the woman to appropriate specialists, hospitals, etc. if necessary. The availability of routine prenatal care has played a part in reducing maternal death rates and miscarriages as well as birth defects, low birth weight, and other preventable infant problems in the developed worldFact|date=February 2007.

While availability of prenatal care has considerable personal health and social benefits, socioeconomic problems prevent its universal adoption in many developed as well as developing nations.

One prenatal practice is for the expecting mother to consume vitamins with at least 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects.

Prenatal care generally consists of:
* monthly visits during the first two trimesters (from week 1-28)
* biweekly from 28 to week 36 of pregnancy
* weekly after week 36 (delivery at week 38-40)

Physical examinations

Physical examinations generally consist of:
* collection of (mother's) medical history
* checking (mother's) blood pressure
* (mother's) height and weight
* pelvic exam
* (mother's) blood and urine tests
* discussion with caregiver

Ultrasound

Obstetric ultrasounds are most commonly performed during the second trimester at approximately week 20. Ultrasounds are considered relatively safe and have been used for over 35 years for monitoring pregnancy.

Among other things, ultrasounds are used to:
* Diagnose pregnancy (uncommon)
* Check for multiple fetuses
* Determine the sex of the fetus
* Assess possible risks to the mother (e.g., miscarriage, blighted ovum, ectopic pregnancy, or a molar pregnancy condition)
* Check for fetal malformation (e.g., club foot, spina bifida, cleft palate, clenched fists)
* Determine if an intrauterine growth retardation condition exists
* Note the development of fetal body parts (e.g., heart, brain, liver, stomach, skull, other bones)
* Check the amniotic fluid and umbilical cord for possible problems
* Determine due date (based on measurements and relative developmental progress)

Generally an ultrasound is ordered whenever an abnormality is suspected or along a schedule similar to the following:
* 7 weeks - confirm pregnancy, ensure that it's neither molar or ectopic, determine due date
* 13-14 weeks (some areas) - evaluate the possibility of Down Syndrome
* 18-20 weeks - see the expanded list above
* 34 weeks (some areas) - evaluate size, verify placental position

References

* [http://www.makewayforbaby.com/prenatalcare.htm Prenatal care]
* [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12521796&dopt=Abstract Pub Med abstract of paper showing importance of prenatal care]
* [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12517830&dopt=Abstract Pub Med abstract of paper showing risk of HSV]
* [http://my.webmd.com/content/article/24/1840_50908.htm Prenatal Screening Curbs Infant Deaths]
* [http://my.webmd.com/content/article/51/40825.htm Prenatal ultrasound]
* [http://www.ob-ultrasound.net/ Obstetric Ultrasound]
* [http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/prenatal.htm CDC US prenatal care statistics]
* [http://www.4woman.gov/faq/prenatal.htm Prenatal care]
* Doula
* [http://www.engenderhealth.org/wh/mch/pprecare.html EngenderHealth-Prenatal Care and Planning]


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