What happens at prenatal care visits

AT YOUR FIRST VISIT...

Your first visit will most likely take more time than other appointments. The health care provider will:

I Ask you questions about your health now and in the past (your medical history). Your answers about other pregnancies, health problems, illnesses (including sexually transmitted diseases), and your lifestyle will help your care giver decide the best care for you.

I Give you a physical exam.

This will include internal (pelvic) and breast exams, checking your heart, lungs, eyes, ears, nose, and throat, and measuring your weight and height.

I Test your blood, urine and blood pressure and take a culture of the cervix and a Pap smear to check for some possible problems that might affect your pregnancy.

I Talk with you about a plan of care to fit your needs. This will include a schedule of visits, diet, exercise, and special things to do.

AT LATER VISITS.

With all of the changes in your body, regular visits will help make sure that you and your baby stay healthy. Your health care giver will:

I Check your weight, blood pressure, and urine.

I Measure your abdomen (stomach) to see how your baby is growing.

I Listen to your baby's heart beat with you.

I Talk with you about any concerns or questions you have.

I Give you any special tests you may need to find out about your health or your baby.

What I can find out from the tests I will have...

YOU WILL HAVE THE TESTS DESCRIBED BELOW AT YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT.

I Pap smear—to look for problems with your cervix (the opening to your uterus or womb).

I Internal exam (pelvic exam)—to check your cervix and uterus. Also to check that your pelvis is large enough for your baby to pass through during birth.

Culture of the cervix—to check for gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Blood tests—to see if you have certain conditions which might affect your pregnancy or your baby such as: anemia (low blood count), Rh factor, syphilis, HIV, or hepatitis B. Also show if you have protection against rubella (German measles).

Urine tests—to check for diabetes, infection, and problems related to your kidneys and blood pressure.

Blood pressure—to check for high blood pressure, which can cause problems in pregnancy.

YOU WILL HAVE YOUR URINE AND BLOOD PRESSURE CHECKED AT EVERY VISIT.

YOU ALSO MAY HAVE ONE OR MORE OF THESE TESTS TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR HEALTH OR THE GROWTH OF YOUR BABY...

I Glucose tolerance test (GTT)—to check for diabetes (at about 24 weeks of pregnancy).

■ Ultrasound—produces a picture ("sonogram") to check the position and size of your baby, to find out about when your baby is due to be born, and to check for some kinds of problems.

Your health care giver may suggest other tests, depending upon your family history, your age or health, your racial or ethnic background. For example, amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) may be suggested for women who are 35 or older, to identify certain genetic problems that could affect their baby's health. Alpha fetoprotein (MSAFP) is a blood test that could be suggested to find out if a baby may have spinal cord problems.

How to take care of my own and my baby's health...

Take care of yourself so that you feel good and your baby grows normally.

DO eat a variety of healthful foods each day.

DO eat 3 meals at regular times during the day.

DO drink 6-8 glasses of water and other liquids each day.

DO exercise regularly. Ask your health care giver about starting or continuing to exercise.

DO wear your seat belt every time you ride in a car, van or truck.

DO brush and floss your teeth at least once a day. Continue to see your dentist on a regular basis.

DO tell all your health care givers that you are pregnant before getting any X-rays.

DO read the label for directions and warnings before you use any paint, cleaner, bug spray, or other chemical.

DO keep all of your health care appointments. If you miss an appointment, make another right away. Don't wait until the next month.

DO ask your health care giver if you have questions about what you should be doing to have a healthy baby!

Some things you might do when you are pregnant can harm your baby.

DON'T smoke. Tobacco of any kind will harm you and your baby. Smoking increases the chances that your baby may be born too soon and too small. Quitting at any time during your pregnancy helps. There are programs to help a pregnant woman stop smoking. Ask your health care giver about them. Quit as soon as you can.

DON'T drink alcohol (beer, wine, wine coolers, liquor). Drinking alcohol can cause birth defects. No one knows whether drinking even a little is safe. The best advice is don't drink when you are pregnant. Programs to help you stop drinking are available.

DON'T use any street drugs (such as crack, cocaine, marijuana, PCP). Street drugs can hurt you and your baby. Your baby can be born too small to live, or have severe mental or physical problems that can last for years. Tell your health care givers about any drugs you use so they can help you stop.

DON'T take any medicine—even an aspirin—or anything prescribed before you were pregnant without first asking your health care providers if it is safe.

If you have any of these signs, call your health care provider as soon as possible:

Bright red blood from your vagina

Swelling or puffiness of your face or hands

A sudden large weight gain

Pain when you empty your bladder

Very bad or frequent headaches

Blurred vision, flashes of light, or spots before your eyes

Sharp or prolonged pain in your abdomen (stomach)

Severe or continued vomiting Sudden gush of fluid from the vagina

SIGNS OF PREMATURE (TOO EARLY) LABOR

During your pregnancy, there is a danger that your labor might begin too soon and your baby will be born too early to be healthy and live outside

If you have any of the signs listed in the box above that do not go away after an hour of rest,

If you just "don't feel right" or have any questions about your health, call your health care giver for advice.

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