The aim of Antenatal care is to safeguard the health and well-being of the mother and baby during pregnancy.
This is a good time to talk with your doctor about other factors that can pose a risk to the baby, such as alcohol, smoking, prescription medicines and recreational drugs. If you are being treated for a medical problem (such as epilepsy, diabetes, acne, asthma, high blood pressure, a heart problem, anxiety, depression or other psychiatric problem) talk to your doctor about the effect that medications and treatment may have on your pregnancy.
THE FIRST VISIT TO YOUR DOCTOR
Your first examination should ideally take place during the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy or when your menstrual period is two to four weeks late. Your doctor will take a full medical and pregnancy history, conduct a thorough physical examination, estimate the date the baby is due, and discuss with you any likely problems.
Some tests are required to detect problems in pregnancy. Most tests are routine. Other tests may be needed depending on your medical history and family background.
The following tests are routine. Almost all pregnant women receiving antenatal care will have them.
- Blood group and antibody test - Your blood group will be determined. It could be A, B, AB or O. Blood is also tested for the Rhesus (or Rh) factor.
- Blood count - This detects whether the amount of hemoglobin in the red cells of the blood is normal; hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein that binds oxygen for use by all cells throughout the body.
- Syphilis - Although syphilis is rare, it can be present without symptoms and may harm the fetus.
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) - HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Pregnant women may be offered testing for HIV even if they do not have a particular risk factor.
- Rubella (German measles) - Your blood is tested for antibodies from a previous rubella infection or vaccination.
- Hepatitis B - This is a viral infection of the liver. A woman can be a carrier of hepatitis B without having symptoms.
- Hepatitis C - Doctors will recommend a hepatitis C screening test for women who are in particular risk groups, for example, intravenous drug users.
- Bacteria tests - On your first visit, a test for bacteria in the urine may be arranged.
- Urinary screen - Your urine may be tested for protein, sugar and blood. This test may be repeated at other antenatal visits.
FOLATE – MAKE IT PART OF YOUR DAY
- What is folate? - Folate is a B vitamin that is needed for healthy growth and development. A baby's growth is most rapid in the first weeks of life- often before you even know you are pregnant.
- Who needs folate and why? - Women, in particular need folate. Folate is especially important for women at least one month before pregnancy and for the first three months of pregnancy to help prevent birth abnormalities like spina bifida in babies.
- How much folate do I need? - Experts recommend that women of child-bearing age should aim for 400 micrograms (µg) each day. That means you will need to eat a wide range of foods that are naturally rich in folate or fortified with folate. See the table above for examples of folate-rich foods. Remember, it is also important to enjoy a wide variety of other nutritious foods every day.
- How do I increase my folate intake? - You should also take a daily folic acid supplement of at least 500 micrograms (µg) if you are planning to become pregnant. The tablet form of folate is called folic acid and is available from pharmacies.