As soon as a woman discovers she is pregnant, she should establish a schedule of prenatal care with her healthcare provider for her entire pregnancy. For normal pregnancies without significant complications, prenatal exams are usually scheduled as follows:
- Every month from the 1st week through the 28th week
- Every two weeks from the 29th week through the 36th week
- Weekly from the 37th week until delivery
This schedule may vary depending on your personal medical condition and your healthcare provider's preference. Additional prenatal care may be necessary if there are any preexisting medical conditions, like diabetes present in the mother and/or if complications arise while carrying the baby to term.
What happens during the prenatal care visits?
The goal of prenatal care is not only to provide the best care for the pregnant woman and the unborn child, but also to prepare the mother-to-be for the delivery of a healthy baby. During prenatal visits, tests are performed on both the mother and the baby to assess any potential risks, to treat any maternal or fetal complications, and to keep an eye on the growth and development of the fetus. In addition, counseling and guidance are provided regarding various aspects of pregnancy, including weight gain, exercise, nutrition, and overall health. A typical prenatal visit may include any/all of the following:
- Weight measurement
- Blood pressure measurement
- Measurement of the uterus to check for proper growth of the fetus
- Physical exam of the mother to identify problems or discomforts, like swelling of the hands and feet
- Urine test to measure sugar and protein levels. This can indicate diabetes or preeclampsia (a condition characterized by high blood pressure, proteinuria, and swelling due to fluid retention). However, swelling does not need to be present to make the diagnosis. And having swelling does not always mean a woman has preeclampsia.
- Fetal heart rate measurement
- Prenatal screening tests like blood tests to check for anemia