Antenatal Care: Benefits, when to start

Antenatal care

Antenatal care is very essential for every would be mother and her baby, and regardless of how many pregnancies you might have had in the past, and how many babies you current have, antenatal care is a MUST.

This is because, the conditions that you had in your last pregnancy, might not be the same condition that you will have in your next pregnancy. Hence, it is important to book for your antenatal care at a health care facility closest to you, so as to ensure better care & outcome for you & your baby.

What to know about Antenatal Care

  1. Antenatal care should start IMMEDIATELY after you discovered that you are pregnant. That is, as soon as you did your pregnancy test, and it was Positive (not 3 or 4 months after).
  2. A good antenatal care should have at least 8 visits. This is just a guide, your visits can be more depending on your overall health & condition of your pregnancy.
  3. When newly registered for antenatal, you must be seen at least 1 or 2 weeks after your first visit to review your tests results; blood group, genotype, HIV status etc.
  4. Early scan must be done immediately to check if pregnancy is viable, it’s location & number of babies.
  5. Most pregnant women are seen once in 4 week till 6 to 7 months, then once in two weeks up to 8+ months & once in a week till delivery.
Antenatal care
Examination of a Pregnant woman by a nurse in a remote area.

What to do In Case of Anomaly detected on Ultrasound Scan

‘Doctor, the scan says our baby is not normal’. This is one of the most disheartening experiences for any intending parent.

What to do if SCAN shows the baby has abnormalities

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Take result to tertiary hospitals
  3. Seek 2nd/3rd opinion
  4. Ask them to use pictures to explain better and show you it looks in real life.(google it)
  5. Ask what can be done in pregnancy/immediately after birth and if it is compatible with life.
  6. Both partners should try ask questions within their families, it may be inherited.
  7. Do not blame/neglect yourself, Continue to attend antenatal
  8. Try and do all requested tests in the pregnancy to help identify cause.
  9. Talk to someone about it; family, good friends, therapist, psychologist to help process & make decisions it if need be

Remember taking Folic acid even before you get pregnant and healthier you can prevent some of these abnormalities from happening again.

Why every woman must attend Antenatal Care

  • It helps to discover possible complications that can affect the health of the mother and baby early enough and take necessary precautions.
  • It brings together mothers and helps to provide support, advice, reassurance and important education about the pregnancy and the Baby to the woman and her family;
  • Routine health screening, Multi vitamins and necessary vaccinations (e.g: tetanus) are given during Antenatal care to prevent possible complications.
Antenatal care
Pregnant women being Educated during Antenatal visits.

Benefits of Antenatal Care (ANC)

Detection of medical conditions coexisting with pregnancy: Routine screening done during Antenatal care helps to detect common medical conditions like: Diabetes, Fibroids, Hypertension, Sickle cell disease, Anaemia, etc, and also help prevent pregnancy complications & adverse outcome for both mother & child.

This is because, a lot of this conditions are discovered in routine pregnancy tests, especially those of hypertension that can lead to Pre-Eclampsia and subsequent maternal and fetal deaths.

Antenatal care
A pregnant woman’s blood pressure being measured at a routine antenatal visit.

Testing & detection of Infections: during antenatal care, screening is done for a number of infections that can be transmitted from mother to child, and can affect the child in the womb, leading to a number of congenital defects and disabilities. Examples of infections are; HIV, Herpes, Chlamydia, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, etc.
These can be detected and treated (where possible) so as to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission from the mother to her unborn baby.

Immunization: during antenatal care, mothers receive vaccination against tetanus to protect them and their babies.

Rhesus Screening: Also, during routine antenatal screening, rhesus negative mother’s who are not previously aware of their status, are screened and if having a rhesus positive child with risks of rhesus incompatibility, they are given the rhesus immunoglobulin D (rhogam D), to prevent them from being stimulated and developing antibodies against their own babies.
This is given to them twice. One at around 28 weeks of pregnancy and the second as early as possible within the first 72 hours after delivery.

Ultrasound: during antenatal care, ultrasound done can help to access;

  • the number of babies the woman is having (if single, twin, triplets, etc), the age of the pregnancy. This assessment is done using the first trimester ultrasound.
  • also check for the presence of Anomalies using 2nd trimester ultrasound.

Routine medication: during antenatal care, women receive important medications that would help protect them and their unborn babies, such as;

  • folic acid & vitamin supplements.
  • Antimalarial prophylaxis as well as possible mosquito nets
  • prophylaxis against Ecclampsia for high risk persons.
  • prophylaxis against preterm labour for high risk mothers.

To all mother’s, as soon as you are pregnant, go & book for your antenatal care, became early booking has been noted to have the best outcome for both mother and child. This would ensure that you are screened, Scanned and tested early. Always attend your antenatal visits, make complaints where they are and ask questions on any bothering subject.

Authors

  • Dr Abosede Lewu is a specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. She is an Expert on Women's Health, (Fibroids, Infertility, Menstruation & Pregnancy issues). Dr. Abosede Lewu holds an MBBS Degree from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State Nigeria. You can follow Dr. Lewu on twitter: @NaijaObgyn for all Obstetrics and Gynaecology related complaints.

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