Pregnancy and Prenatal Care

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What is Prenatal care?

Prenatal care is when you get checkups from a doctor, nurse, or midwife throughout your pregnancy. It helps keep you and your future baby healthy.

Why is it important? 

Prenatal care is an important part of staying healthy during pregnancy.

Your doctor, nurse, or midwife will monitor your future baby’s development and do routine testing to help find and prevent possible problems. These regular checkups are also a great time to learn how to ease any discomfort you may be having, and ask any other questions about your pregnancy and the birth of your future baby.

Can things go wrong without prenatal care?

Each year, reports of approximately 500 women who died as a result of a pregnancy-related complication.  In 1999, on average there were seven infant deaths per 1000 live births. The leading causes of infant death were congenital anomalies and low birthweight, two conditions that can be considerably impacted by prenatal care.

In order to have the best possible outcome for mother and child, early prenatal care is essential. Even before a woman conceives, she can be given folic acid, checked for immunity to rubella and blood type, as well as advised about smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating a healthy diet.

Once a woman is pregnant, prenatal visits to a healthcare provider will include examinations to determine the health of the mother and developing the fetus.

Am I at risk?

A higher risk of death related to pregnancy has been found in women over 35 years of age, women who have borne five or more children, women who did not receive prenatal care, and Hispanic and black women. The single most important factor influencing neonatal mortality is birth weight. The rate of infant death increases significantly with decreasing birth weight for infants weighing less than 2500 grams.

Can It Be Prevented?

Some estimate that up to one-half of pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented. An important element for decreasing infant mortality is to prevent low birth weight. Early prenatal care can provide necessary information to the mother and effect changes for nutrition-related and behavioural risk factors impacting the mother and baby.

What can be done?

Consider a preconception visit before you get pregnant.
Start taking folic acid before conception.
Get early prenatal care.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
With doctor’s approval, get regular exercise.
Limit caffeine and avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and street drugs.

What are the most common maternal infections?

UTIs, skin and respiratory tract infections are usually not serious problems during pregnancy, although some genital infections (bacterial vaginosis and genital herpes) affect labour or choice of delivery method. However, certain maternal infections can damage the fetus, as may occur in the following:

  • Congenital cytomegalovirus infection
  • Neonatal herpes simplex virus infection
  • Congenital rubella
  • Congenital toxoplasmosis
  • Neonatal hepatitis B
  • Congenital syphilis
  • HIV infection can be transmitted from mother to child transplacentally or perinatally. When the mother is not treated, the risk of transmission at birth is about 25 to 35%.
  • Listeriosis is more common during pregnancy. Listeriosis increases the risk of; Spontaneous abortion, Preterm labour, Stillbirth, Neonatal transmission of listeriosis is possible.
  • Bacterial vaginosis and possibly genital chlamydial infection predispose to Premature rupture of the membranes, Preterm labour.

Antibacterials and Pregnancy 

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed during pregnancy, only prescribed carefully because some antibiotics are harmful to the fetus while others are not. Penicillins, (including amoxicillin, ampicillin), Cephalosporins, (including cefaclor, cephalexin), Erythromycin and Clindamycin.

Certain other antibiotics are believed to pose risks during pregnancy. For example, tetracyclines can discolour developing baby’s teeth. Tetracyclines aren’t recommended for use after the 15th week of pregnancy.

If an antibiotic is the best way to treat your condition, your health care provider will prescribe the safest antibiotic at the safest dosage.

References

PlannedParenthood. Prenatal care. Accesed on 15th October 2018.

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