Prenatal care is any medical care you get while you’re pregnant. At every visit, your doctor checks on your health and the health of your fetus.
By getting early and regular prenatal care, you’re more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and carry your baby full term — the time necessary in the womb to grow and develop fully.
At the office of board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed in Houston, Texas, you can expect comprehensive care before, during, and after your pregnancy.
Dr. Ahmed specializes in normal and high-risk pregnancies and can provide you and your baby the attention you need during your nine-month journey. Here’s what you need to know about prenatal care.
Why do I need prenatal care?
The primary function of prenatal care is to ensure that both mother and child remain healthy throughout and after the pregnancy.
Babies born to mothers who don’t get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a less-than-healthy weight and five times more likely to die than babies born to mothers who do get proper care.
In addition, your doctor can identify health problems early on when they see you regularly during your pregnancy, allowing them to cure many issues and prevent others from occurring. They can also talk with you about what you can do to give your unborn baby a healthy start to life.
The care timeline
Comprehensive prenatal care actually starts before you get pregnant. Pre-conception health means understanding how your underlying health conditions and risk factors may affect you and your baby during pregnancy.
Speak with Dr. Ahmed about what you need to do to care for yourself before you’re also caring for your baby. You should see the doctor during pregnancy:
- Once a month during weeks 4-28
- Twice a month during weeks 28-36
- Every week for weeks 36 to birth
If you’re over 35, or if your pregnancy is otherwise classified as high-risk, Dr. Ahmed may want to see you more often. High-risk conditions include:
- Increasing age
- Carrying multiple babies
- History of a chronic medical condition
- Previous preterm labor and/or delivery
- Recurrent pregnancy loss
- Thyroid abnormality
- Developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia
Understanding your risk factors can go a long way toward identifying any potential problems before they become real problems and affect your baby’s health.
The prenatal visits
Your first prenatal visit is probably the longest. You can expect Dr. Ahmed to:
- Take a detailed health history, including previous pregnancies
- Ask about your family's health history
- Perform a physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap smear
- Take blood and urine for analysis (i.e., STDs, other infections, anemia)
- Check your height, weight, and blood pressure
- Calculate your due date (based on last menstrual period)
- Inform you about how to stay healthy
- Answer all of your questions
During later visits, Dr. Ahmed checks on your health and makes sure the baby is growing as expected. He also:
- Checks your blood pressure
- Measures your weight gain
- Measures your abdomen to check your baby's growth (once you begin to show)
- Checks the baby's heart rate
He also runs routine tests based on your medical history and risk factors.
Best care tips
To get the full benefits of prenatal care, you also need to know what to eat, which nutrients to take, and which lifestyle changes benefit you and your baby the most. Common recommendations include:
It’s important when pregnant to eat a variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods, whole grains, and foods low in saturated fat. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating to remove toxins.
Also, don't eat uncooked or undercooked meat (risk of parasites) and don't eat fish with lots of mercury (e.g., swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish). Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Dr. Ahmed may suggest you gain a healthy amount of weight.
Vitamins and minerals
To get all the nutrients you need, a prenatal vitamin may prove helpful. Iron is especially important: It prevents anemia, which is linked to preterm birth and low birth weight.
To ensure that both you and your baby remain healthy and strong, get plenty of sleep, find ways to control stress, and try for at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.
Needless to say, don't smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs while you’re pregnant.
It also helps to learn as much as you can about pregnancy, so consider childbirth education classes for you and your partner.
If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, comprehensive prenatal care is the best thing you can do for you and your unborn child. Give Dr. Ahmed’s office a call at 713-489-3348 to schedule a prenatal care consultation, or book online with us today.