Expectations When You’re Expecting: Start Early with Prenatal Appointments
A life-change like having a baby should come with the best information, so early prenatal checkups are best for all moms.
Avera Medical Group physician Annie Siewert, MD, MS FACOG, who specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that when a woman can hear her doctor answer her many questions face-to-face, it’s going to help.
“Prenatal care is the number one way to protect the health of both mom and baby,” Siewert said. “Babies born to moms who don’t start prenatal care are more likely to have low birth weights or pre-term labor. Give mom and baby the best chance for a good outcome by starting early.”
Prompt Preparation for Moms
Siewert said even before pregnancy, women should consider a preconception visit. Once the pregnancy is confirmed, make that call and set your first official OB appointment, she said.
“Babies develop quickly, so moms should be seen at the start of development. Prenatal care is a good idea, no matter how many children you have,” she said. “When problems are spotted earlier, they can be treated earlier.”
There are steps expecting women can take right away, like prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Siewert also recommends the use of an omega-3 supplement like DHA.
“Folic acid is shown to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine,” Siewert said. “You can get folic acid from food, but not all that you need. Your doctor can work with you to make sure you have the right prenatal vitamin. DHA has been shown to benefits the baby’s brain development.”
She added that it goes without saying, but can be tough to face: women having babies have to stop smoking and, of course, drinking alcohol.
“The effects of smoking and drinking on an unborn baby are well-documented, and your doctor can provide help if you need it to quit,” Siewert said. “It’s also encouraged that women who have conditions such as asthma, diabetes or seizure disorders like epilepsy to seek help as well.”
Siewert said that your first prenatal appointment will be thorough, and it will feature a complete physical exam that may include a Pap test and pelvic exam. Blood and urine tests are done in the lab, and the doctor can calculate the due date. Additional prenatal appointments usually are quicker, but are a time to answer questions and listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
Expecting moms should see their physician or provider monthly through the first and second trimesters, then twice a month during the third. Weekly visits during the final month are recommended, but the frequency may vary.