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After confirmation of your pregnancy, our doctor, a board certified obstetrician gynecologist (OB/GYN) will make arrangements for your antenatal care. Most women have their first and longest antenatal check-up between weeks 8 and 12 of pregnancy. The earlier you start attending antenatal check-ups the better. You should then attend antenatal check-ups once a month until 28 weeks, then twice a month until you are 36 weeks pregnant. During the last 4 weeks of your pregnancy you should go every week.
The first visit
Your first visit will be the longest, during which you will be asked many questions. The answers to these questions will help the doctor discover anything that could affect your pregnancy or your baby. You may be asked questions on the following:
- The date of your last period so they can estimate when your baby is due.
- You and your partner’s medical and family history. This will include any racial origins. This is in case you carry the gene for any inherited blood disorders which may affect your baby.
- If there is a history of twins in either your family or your partner’s.
- If you have had any previous pregnancies, this will include miscarriages or abortions.
- If you have any known allergies.
- Whether you are taking any medications for illnesses.
- What serious illnesses or operations you have had in the past.
- You may also be asked about your backgrounds - what your jobs are and about your living accommodation. This is in case there is anything in your circumstances that may affect your pregnancy.
You will have regular checks on your heart and lungs to make sure your general health is good. Your blood pressure will also be taken at every antenatal visit.
Occasionally your obstetrician may carry out an internal examination, enabling them to feel the size of your abdomen gently with the other hand. This examination will not hurt and if you relax it will not even be uncomfortable. Most OB/GYNs prefer to use an ultrasound either at the first or later visit.
Your height is a rough guide to the size of your pelvis. If you have a small pelvis you can sometimes have a difficult delivery. If you are over 5ft you are unlikely to have any problems.
You will be weighed on your first visit and then your weight gain should be checked regularly.
Blood samples will be required in your first visit. This blood test will check for:
- What blood group you are.
- Whether you may be anaemic.
- Whether you have any diseases that could harm the baby, such as hepatitis B.
You will be asked to give a urine sample on every visit, the urine will be checked for the following:
- Sugar - this could be a sign of pregnancy diabetes.
- Protein - this may indicate that there is an infection that needs treating.
You may be weighed every visit so try to wear similar weight clothes on each visit. The majority of weight gain will be after week 20 and this will be about 22 – 28 pounds.
Your abdomen will be felt on each visit, to check the rate at which your baby is growing and the position.
Your blood pressure will be closely monitored throughout your pregnancy. Towards the end of pregnancy most women tend to suffer from swollen ankles. This usually happens towards the end of the day, especially if you have been on your feet for most of the day. If you notice a lot of swelling in your hands and feet you should consult your obstetrician, as it could be the sign of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that quite often develops in late pregnancy and is characterized by a rise in blood pressure and swelling of hands, feet or face. Mild pre-eclampsia is not dangerous, but needs to be treated as it can progress to more serious conditions. Severe pre-eclampsia can produce symptoms such as, severe headaches and abdominal pain. In rare cases women with pre-eclampsia can develop full blown eclampsia. Eclampsia describes one or more convulsions, or seizures, occurring during or immediately after pregnancy. If you have any worries you should consult your doctor who will monitor your condition very carefully.
If you are over 37 you may be offered some special tests. If you fall into this category your doctor will discuss these with you.
You will be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat after week 14 with a device called a Sonicaid, which enables the beat to be amplified so that it can be heard.
After week 16 you will usually have an ultrasound scan, this may however be carried out at any stage. This process is completely safe and painless. An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to build up a picture of the baby in the uterus (womb). You and your partner can watch the picture displayed on a small screen and sometimes you will be given a copy of the picture to keep. This will usually be the first time you will actually see your baby moving around and it will make the baby seem real for possibly the first time.
Around week 16 of pregnancy you may have a blood test for A.F.P. (Alpha-fetoprotein). A.F.P. is a substance found in the blood and high levels could indicate that you are having a miscarriage, this is not a routine test. You are more likely to be offered this test if you are over 37 years of age.
Many women sometimes feel bored and frustrated with the lengthy procedures at the clinic, try taking your partner or a friend along with you to keep you company. It is very important you attend antenatal appointments as they will ensure you and your baby receive all the care and attention needed to maintain a healthy, happy pregnancy.
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