Most women have heard of “prenatal care” at some point before or during their pregnancy. But, there are many women who do not really understand what “prenatal” care actually means. Prenatal care is not just going to the doctor once or taking vitamins. Prenatal care is a preventative plan of action implemented by a doctor to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and reduced the chances of health problems for the baby. It consists of going to the doctor for regular check-ups, obtaining proper blood test and diagnostic test, learning about proper weight gain and nutrition, learning about the importance of avoiding alcohol and other drugs, and learning about breast feeding and what to expect during the pregnancy. Having prenatal care early in the pregnancy can help prevent premature births, low birth weights, severe developmental problems, and even reduce infant mortality. The statistics are staggering. Women who do not receive proper prenatal care are 3 times more likely to have a low birth-weight baby. Also, babies who are born to mothers who did not receive prenatal care are 5 times more likely to die in infancy. It is therefore really important for women to see their primary care physician or OB/GYN as early as possible. Keeping medical appointments and having proper prenatal care can help medical providers catch any problems that may arise early and provide the patient with the right counseling and interventions for the baby.
Many health disparities exist among the minority groups, including Hispanics, when it comes to obtaining prenatal care. According to an article from “Child Health USA 2013”, some of the most common reasons why women do not seek early medical attention are lack of health insurance, lack of transportation, and difficulty obtaining an early appointment. One of the most common reasons was not knowing they were pregnant. It is important for women of childbearing age to keep track of their cycles, understand their own bodies, and pay attention to any changes that may indicate pregnancy. Some of the most important steps in development occur within the first 21 days of pregnancy. This is also why it is really important for women to avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking before becoming pregnant and during the pregnancy. Knowing early and avoiding these harmful substances can help reduce the chances of health problems for the baby. It is recommended that women seek medical attention as soon as they learn, or even suspect, they are pregnant.
During your first visit, your doctor will discuss your nutrition, your activity level, and what things to pay attention to. Below is a list of some basic recommendations. These basic recommendations are not a substitute for a visit to your doctor, but they can give you some basic guidelines for prenatal care while you obtain your appointment for your first visit.
- It is recommended that all women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or are pregnant should take a prenatal multivitamin with 0.4 to 0.8 mg of Folic acid and other nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin C. Ask your doctor about what are the best recommendations for a multivitamin.
- Avoid processed foods to prevent excess weight gain
- Avoid raw food
- Limit caffeine consumption
- Maintain a healthy diet with whole foods, fruits, and vegetables
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and other harmful substances
- Always wear a seatbelt when driving
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day (consult your doctor about what exercise is safest for you)
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Child Health USA 2013. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013.
- Child Trends Databank. (2015). Late or no prenatal care. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?late-or-no-prenatal-care – See more at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=late-or-no-prenatal-care#sthash.fv1Q4w8s.dpuf
- Charles J Lockwood, MD, and Urania Magriples, MD. “Initial Prenatal Assessment and First Trimester Prenatal Care.” Initial Prenatal Assessment and First Trimester Prenatal Care. Up to Date, Sept. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.
- Gillen-Goldstein, Jonathan, MD, Henry Roque, MD, and Jean M. Ruvel. “Nutrition in Pregnancy.” Nutrition in Pregnancy. Up to Date, 21 Sept. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015
My name is Kenia Valdez. I am a second year medical student at the University of Rochester. I am half Mexican half Nicaragüense. I grew up in the Bronx. I am co- president of Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA). I hope to become an OBGYN and be able to practice medicine both in English and Spanish. My goal is to work with the Hispanic community.