If your pregnancy has been confirmed by a home-pregnancy test kit, the next step is to find an obstetrician / gynaecologist. In most cases, a woman will already have a regular gynaecologist who she visits for routine gynaecological checkups, and she will probably feel comfortable to handover her prenatal care to this doctor. The question is what care should the expectant mom expect from her appointed healthcare practitioner?
First and foremost the role of the doctor will be to help the mother understand the pregnancy and the changes that will occur over the next forty weeks. The doctor will, during the prenatal visits monitor the health of the baby (using ultrasound equipment) and the health of the mother. If a new obstetrician has been appointed, the first visit will involve a series of questions into the mother’s medical history and questioning that will help the doctor determine if any underlying health problems exist that will affect the health of both the mother and child.
A woman needs to feel comfortable and at ease with her chosen caregiver, as over the next 9 months the pregnant mom will develop a close bond with the obstetrician. If at any time the mom feels uncomfortable or troubled by the level of care that is being provided, she has every right to switch doctors and find a new doctor, with whom she feels more comfortable with and who she feels has the best interests of her and her baby’s health at heart.
What to expect at the prenatal appointments
Each prenatal appointment will differ and it may involve a full examination, an ultrasound, or a conversation on any issues relating to the pregnancy. For the first few months, pregnant women will have appointments each month, but as the pregnancy progresses the appointments weekly appointments will be scheduled.
Women with -high risk’ pregnancies, such as multiple pregnancies, or pregnancies which may be affected by underlying health issues will usually need to schedule weekly prenatal appointments a lot sooner than women who have -low’ or -moderate’ risk pregnancies. The caregiver will routinely monitor the baby’s heartbeat (at each visit), using an ultrasound monitor.
A full-ultrasound is also conducted by the doctor, and these are usually limited to no more than three or four ultrasounds during the pregnancy – again, high-risk pregnancies are different. The ultrasound will allow the doctor to detect if the baby has any birth defects and the procedure will also permit the doctor to monitor the baby’s health and development. The ultrasound appointments are the most exciting of all, as parents will be able to see their unborn baby in the womb and most doctors will be able to create a DVD of each ultrasound – a lovely keepsake for the expectant parents.
Diet, general health, weight gain, pregnancy vitamins, etc. will also be discussed at each appointment and as the due date approaches, the obstetrician will discuss the different delivery options and will request the parent’s input on delivery methods, pain relief, etc., and will also provide expert medical advice on each method.
Partners are encouraged to attend as many of the prenatal visits as possible, this will allow them to get to know the doctor and will also give them a chance to ask any questions relating to the pregnancy and birth. The mom should not be afraid to voice any concerns that she may have, and must never feel that a question is not worth asking – a good obstetrician (although limited by time) will ensure that the mom is at ease, healthy and that the baby is developing well. A doctor who rushes through the appointment and is not willing to sit down and discuss the most momentous occasion in a couple’s life – may not be the best candidate to provide prenatal care!