WHAT IS ANTENATAL CARE?
An antenatal consultation is a medical interaction between a pregnant patient and a midwife or obstetrician. The goal of this consultation is to determine the well-being of mom and the unborn child by assessing the health of the pregnancy. This is done through physical examinations, history taking and in-depth discussions on the well-being of the family.
WHEN DO I START GOING FOR CONSULTATIONS?
Clients will usually have at least one antenatal consultation in the first trimester of pregnancy to confirm the pregnancy and do an ultrasound to rule out any obvious developmental problems or an ectopic pregnancy. this is done with an obstetrician. You will then have an important ultrasound at 12 weeks to date the pregnancy and assess the wellness of the fetus.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN ANTENATAL CONSULTATION?
The midwife or obstetrician will do the following during an antenatal consultation:
- In depth history taking of the past pregnancies, reproductive health, surgical history, medical history, allergies and the history of the current pregnancy – this helps to determine whether you have any pre-existing risk factors that may influence your health during the current pregnancy
- Vital data monitoring of blood pressure, pulse, temperature and urinalysis.
- A physical examination of mom, including an assessment of the growing belly through palpation.
- Blood tests via laboratory screening. There is a battery of bloods that is done standard at the beginning of each pregnancy. The important tests include screening for blood group and rhesus factor, a full blood count, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), Rubella (German Measles) and Syphilis. Other tests may be requested during the pregnancy, depending on the need.
- An ultrasound may be done by the attending obstetrician, sonographer or an appropriately skilled midwife to assess the development and well-being of the growing fetus. There are three essential ultrasounds recommended during pregnancy. One at 12 weeks to date the pregnancy, one at 20-22 weeks which is the fetal anomaly scan and one at 36 weeks to assess well-being and do a final screening before the birth to rule out any potential complications.Health education may be given by the midwife or obstetrician during an antenatal consultation to address
- your questions and concerns during the pregnancy. It may also be given at certain stages in the pregnancy to aid your understanding of the growth and development and the expected body changes that will occur. It helps you to know what is normal and abnormal so that you can seek medical help if you experience complications in pregnancy.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU GO FOR A CONSULTATION?
Usually you would only start to visit your midwife from 12-16 weeks in the pregnancy for a booking visit. There after you would visit them once every 4 weeks for a routine follow up consultation. More frequent visit can be scheduled depending on the needs of the pregnancy. A midwife would screen you from the first antenatal consultation, to determine whether you are low risk or not. This would determine if it is suitable for you to remain in midwife-led care or whether you should be managed by an obstetrician during your pregnancy. When you reach 28 weeks in gestational age (age of the pregnancy) then you would attend a consultation every 2 weeks. From 37 weeks you attend consultations weekly until you give birth.
WHY DO I HAVE TO ATTEND SO MANY CONSULTATIONS?
These consultations are aimed at screening mom and baby’s health during the pregnancy. To ensure that all runs smoothly. The more frequent visits are reserved for the third trimester of pregnancy where more frequent screening should be done to ensure the well-being of the pregnancy and pick up complications timeously.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I EXPERIENCE COMPLICATIONS IN PREGNANCY?
The midwife or obstetrician whom you have been seeing during the pregnancy may refer you for additional care, even at another facility, investigations and tests or procedures depending on the needs or the complication that you are experiencing. Some complications are not so severe and can be treated immediately without any negative impact on the pregnancy or your birthing plan. Other complications are more severe and require immediate attention by the appropriate medical professional for further management. Therefore, the value of a multidisciplinary team who cares for you during the pregnancy is of vital importance. A multidisciplinary team would consist of an obstetrician, a midwife and the allied health care professionals that holistically care for a family during pregnancy.
Antenatal care is essential in determining the well-being of you and your baby during the pregnancy. Every pregnant woman in the world should be attending antenatal care as it has statistically
shown a significant decrease in the number of maternal, fetal and neonatal morbidities (complications) and mortalities (deaths) according to the World Health Organisation. In fact, it is considered a right of the pregnant woman. So, don’t delay, book an antenatal consultation with your chosen care provider as soon as you have confirmed that you are in fact pregnant. It is the best decision you can make for your health and the well-being of your baby.
For any queries or to book a consultation for antenatal care, please contact Sr Victoria Black from Protea Nursing Services on firstname.lastname@example.org.