A Guide to Proper Prenatal Care
If you are currently trying to conceive, or even planning to do so in the near future, taking care of your health properly now can have a significant impact on your future infant. According to Los Angeles OB/GYN Dr. David Ghozland, proper prenatal care is an essential component for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Simply defined, prenatal care is the health care you get immediately before and during pregnancy. Dr. Ghozland says prenatal care is important because statistics show 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 than those born to mothers who do get care. One of the reasons for the increased risk is that your doctor can spot health problems early when they see you on a regular basis, and intervene while there is still time. Early intervention can cure and/or prevent many problems.
If you are not yet pregnant, there are many things you can do to prepare. Preconception health care focuses on identifying health conditions and risk factors that could affect you or your unborn baby. For example, dietary habits, lifestyle choices and certain medicines can harm your baby well before conception. These are all issues that should be discussed with your doctor at least three months prior to conception. Some important considerations include:
- Take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid daily at least 90 days before getting pregnant. This nutrient can lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine. Since it is difficult to get all the folic acid you need from diet alone, taking a vitamin containing folic acid can ensure you meet recommended daily requirements.
- If you smoke, quit. Same goes for alcohol consumption.
- Get any preexisting conditions under control. Some conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma may be problematic during pregnancy, and should be carefully monitored.
- Evaluate over-the-counter and prescription medicines with your doctor. Be sure to give your doctor a complete list of dietary or herbal supplements since some are not considered safe during pregnancy.
- Get a flu shot. Pregnant women can get very sick from the flu and may need hospital care – a flu shot now can protect you and your baby.
Getting early and regular prenatal care is important if having a baby is in your immediate or future plans. Dr. Ghozland advises his Los Angeles patients to prioritize prenatal care whether they are preparing for the first pregnancy or their fourth. Each pregnancy is different and your health needs change over time. Seeing your doctor before and throughout your pregnancy is a smart decision for you and your baby.