The importance of antenatal care is often overdone in most households as the would-be mother is flooded with advice about what is right and what is wrong for her.
When should you start?
Make your first visit to an antenatal clinic as soon as possible after a missed period. This will ensure that you have professional help whenever you need it.
Importance of early attendance
You may be carrying some diseases such as Toxoplasmosis before pregnancy without any visible symptom. In such a case, it is important to identify and treat it early to avoid complications.
The trip to the gynaecologist has other benefits too. Your blood pressure can be checked and your weight can be monitored. Besides, any factors that could influence the baby’s development such as nutritional deficiencies (including excessive vomiting), infections and potentially hazardous drug therapy can be detected.
Complications like intra uterine growth retardation can be screened and prevented.
The gynaecologist will also help you plan for the delivery, advice you on the care of the newborn and your future reproductive health.
What to expect in your first visit?
Your first visit to the gynaecologist will help you become comfortable with the doctor so that you can trust him when you go into labour. Your doctor will want to know:
- Your menstrual history (date of last menstrual period).
- Your medical history – whether you have ever suffered from any diseases, like Rubella.
- Your past and present pregnancy history.
- Surgical history (if you have gone through any operation or blood transfusion).
- Family history (if there is any history of twin pregnancy, diabetes or high blood pressure in your family).
- Your personal history like smoking and consumption of alcohol, or any other drugs.
- Drug history (if you are taking any medicine regularly or if you are allergic to any particular medicine).
The doctor will examine you to record your condition in the initial stage of pregnancy in order to be able to compare it later as the pregnancy grows.
After a general examination, he will check your height as this gives a rough estimate of the size of the pelvis. A woman with an average height of 5 feet and above usually has an adequate pelvis to bear a child.
He will also check your weight and then during each visit to calculate your weight gain. The total average weight gain should be around 10 to 12 kilograms. A low calorie balanced diet is important in pregnancy to watch out excessive weight gain.
The blood pressure recording during the first visit is used to compare it with subsequent readings. A rise in blood pressure is a bad sign in pregnancy and may indicate complications like pregnancy induced hypertension. Early detection of hypertension can prevent further complications leading to fits in pregnancy which may lead to intra uterine foetal and maternal death.
He then checks your pulse rate and lungs, and then your abdomen to assess the growth of the baby, its position, the condition of the scar left by any previous operation, any abdominal hernia and the foetal heart rate.
Vaginal examination during pregnancy
Earlier, the gynaecologist used to do a routine checkup of the vagina for the following reasons:
- To confirm the pregnancy.
- To confirm that the size of uterus corresponds to the period of pregnancy.
- To exclude the presence of any tumours or other abnormalities in the pelvis.
- To diagnose any infections in the vagina or cervix.
- To diagnose the presence of any ulcer or erosion in the cervix (mouth of the uterus).
- To take a routine cervical smear to rule out any disease.
- To assess the size of the pelvic cavity.
Nowadays a vaginal checkup is considered an intrusion and an ultrasound is used instead to keep abreast of the foetal growth.