Antenatal care also referred to as prenatal care, is medical care provided to pregnant women throughout their pregnancy. It is usually in the form of professional monitoring, and regular follow-up of the mother and baby's health.
The carers may include midwives, a general practitioner, an obstetrician, and in some cases, all three.
Importance of Antenatal Care During Pregnancy
Many might argue that antenatal care is not such a big deal because women had babies in huts with little or no help in the past.
But antenatal care is a big deal. It has helped reduce mortality rates caused by complications of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Antenatal care has also helped reduce the rate of miscarriages, low birth weight, and birth defects.
A total of 18 studies were conducted on the effect of antenatal care, and the analysis revealed that the risk of infant death was significantly reduced by 34% among newborns from mothers who had frequent antenatal care visits.
The gauthmaker institute analyzed research showing that lack of antenatal care increased the risk of newborn death by 40% among infants born to black women.
Strictly complying with your scheduled antenatal visits will benefit you in many ways. Such as:
- Women with proper antenatal care have increased chances of better delivery and birth outcomes.
- They have access to micronutrient supplements.
- They get advice and support for themselves and their partner.
- They are provided with general health screening.
- Antenatal care allows doctors and midwives to identify and treat problems early.
What to Expect at an Antenatal Care Appointment
The care available to women while pregnant usually varies based on the area they live, their medical history, and risk factors like weight, age, and experience during previous pregnancies.
Antenatal care is not simply limited to regular medical checkups. It also involves counselling about:
- Different aspects of pregnancy.
- Different physiological changes that you will undergo as an expectant mother.
- Emotional changes.
- Best nutrition while pregnant.
You’ll also get guidance on physical activities, labour, birth, and parenting.
The common antenatal schedule is 7-11 visits to the hospital throughout the duration of a pregnancy. More visits may be required if you develop any complications during your pregnancy.
So for a pregnancy that is considered normal, you would need medical checkups:
- Every month, from week 1 - 27.
- Every two weeks from weeks 28 - 36.
- Weekly from 36 weeks till delivery.
During your first visit, you can expect the professional attending to you to ask several questions about your health history. Questions like:
- What’s your blood pressure?
- Do you have diabetes?
- Any past surgeries or hospitalization?
- Your family health history?
- Do you drink or smoke?
In this same visit, you can expect the doctor to carry out a blood test and urine test. He/she would also conduct a full physical examination, and pelvic exam and estimate your due date.
These examinations would help them classify you into a normal or high-risk pregnancy. This will determine whether you would need to see your doctor more often because of possible complications in your pregnancy.
At your next antenatal appointment, your doctor will check your baby's heart rate and abdomen for your baby's growth. They would also check your blood pressure and weight.
In Nigeria, doctors will expect you to attend antenatal classes. Here you’ll be taught all the important topics about pregnancy and childbirth.
You will learn how to care for and feed your baby, stay healthy during pregnancy, and make a birth plan.
When to Start Antenatal
Experts advise that your first antenatal appointment should be scheduled as soon as you discover you're pregnant.
It is important to determine as soon as possible whether your pregnancy is a high-risk one. These are conditions that might increase the risk of your pregnancy being a complicated one:
- Underweight or overweight.
- Under 20 and older than 35 years.
- Complications in a previous pregnancy.
- Health conditions; diabetes, HIV, cancer, autoimmune disorders.
Where to Register For Antenatal Care?
You can register for antenatal care at primary health centers, government-approved private hospitals, and general hospitals.
How Much Does An Antenatal Care Cost in Nigeria
This depends on the facility. You can choose between a government-owned hospital or a private hospital for your antenatal care.
There is subsidization of antenatal costs by the Nigerian government currently. Registration of antenatal care in general hospitals is between the range of #30,000 to #35,000.
At private hospitals, the cost range of antenatal registration or delivery costs between #100,000 - #1,500,000.
However, antenatal care is free in most government facilities in the following states, Delta, Ondo, Abia, Ekiti, Nassarawa, Kano, Osun, Taraba, and Bayelsa.
The government-run NHIS is also available to government employees and certain private-sector employees. It can cover the cost of up to four live births.
So, mama, we hope this guide was beneficial to you. Do share to help another preggo out!