Commentary: The importance of prenatal care

Commentary: The importance of prenatal care
September 08
06:55 2016

Carolyn Moolhuyzen

Guest Columnist

Forsyth County Department of Public Health knows there is a direct correlation between early prenatal care and healthy babies. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight, and five times more likely to die within the first year of life than those born to mothers who do get care.

With early prenatal care, doctors can spot fetal problems, address any health conditions and social risk factors moms may have. With the support of a Pregnancy Care Manager, moms-to-be are advised and encouraged to keep all prenatal appointments. Pregnancy Care Managers can help pregnant women and their OB doctors [obstetricians] identify needs.

During a prenatal visit, the OB team will educate mom on proper nutrition. She’ll learn that pregnancy does not mean you’re eating for two. Only 300 additional calories can be added safely to mom’s diet during pregnancy. Mom to be will learn that she should not eat uncooked seafood like sushi and to avoid rare or under-cooked beef or poultry because of the risk of  “contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.”

She may be surprised to hear deli meats could be contaminated with listeria, which can cause miscarriage. At a second trimester visit, baby’s growth begins to be closely followed. This is an indicator of how baby is doing. A member of mom’s OB team will use a Doppler instrument to hear baby’s heartbeat.

All throughout pregnancy, fetal testing is done. During the first trimester, tests includes blood tests – to check for chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, syphilis, cystic fibrosis, Rh factor, and HIV – as well as a urine culture and a Pap smear. A nuchal translucency (NT) ultrasound with a blood test is done to determine the possibility that baby will have a chromosomal abnormality. At second trimester an Alpha-fetoprotein screening (AFP) is done also called MSAFP (maternal serum AFP). Abnormal levels of AFP may be an indicator of chromosomal abnormalities.

between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. The test measures levels of sugar (glucose) in the mom’s blood. Abnormal glucose levels could be a sign of gestational diabetes which in turn could affect mom and baby’s health.

At every prenatal appointment someone on mom-to-be’s OB team will ask how she’s doing physically and emotionally. Mom-to-be’s Pregnancy Care Manager will be there all the way for mom explaining stages of pregnancy, teaching the signs of preterm labor and educating mom on labor and delivery – supporting information provided by the OB team.

Every prenatal appointment is important. Early detection of fetal problems can be addressed and the health of mom-to-be will be priority.  Early and regular prenatal healthcare equates to Healthy Mom Healthy Baby!

For more information contact Forsyth County Department of Public Health Pregnancy Care Management at 336-703-3243.

Carolyn Moolhuyzen is a care management team leader at the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.

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