The importance of antenatal care

Pregnancy is a journey, and your body will undergo many changes during this time. Some changes may benefit your growing baby, while others can lead to complications. It’s important to be aware of any risks and complications during your pregnancy which is where ante and post-natal classes come into the picture. Here’s why you should attend these classes from your first trimester,

Ante-natal care

Antenatal/prenatal care ensures the best possible outcome for the mother and child. It involves screening, assessing risks, prescribing medications if needed, and physical and psychological preparation for childbirth and parenthood. All pregnant women need to go to the clinic for antenatal/prenatal care as soon as they suspect they are pregnant, or before 20 weeks of pregnancy to ensure they have the best care for their unborn baby.

What to expect at your first visit

Your healthcare provider will start by conducting a urine pregnancy test to confirm pregnancy. If you test positive, you will be issued an antenatal card which will be used for all your visits.

There’ll be a complete assessment of where and how far you are in your pregnancy journey, which will help determine when you will give birth. Your healthcare provider will take into account all of your previous pregnancies (if any), any complications, and outcomes, as well as any existing medical conditions you might have.

You can also expect a full physical examination, which includes weight, height, heart rate, blood pressure, diabetes screening,  HIV testing and STI screening.

Your healthcare provider will discuss danger signs of pregnancy and self-care tips which include,

  • Personal hygiene and breast care.
  • Use of medications.
  • Diet and exercise.

Your healthcare provider will also emphasise the importance of planning for labour, which includes the expected place of delivery, whether clinic/hospital; the mode of delivery, whether natural or caesarean/c-section. They’ll also discuss contraceptives that can be used after delivery.

What to expect in your next classes up to labour

It’s essential to follow the schedule as advised by your healthcare provider. During these visits, you will be asked about general well-being, foetal movements, danger symptoms and any problems. Your blood pressure, blood sugar monitoring, heart rate and urine will also be tested during each visit, including STI screening and HIV testing.

Post-natal care

Post-natal services become available after the mother and her new-born have been discharged from the health facility. New mothers are encouraged to visit their clinics for follow-up visits to check that the uterus (womb) has returned to its original position.

You will also be given a Road to Health Chart (RTHC) when the baby is born. This card must be given to the healthcare provider on follow-up visits to the clinic. The card is an ongoing record of the child’s health from birth to twelve years of age.

Ante-natal and post-natal classes are essential for the health of both the mother and the developing baby. It’s not only crucial to attend these classes to experience a healthy and risk-free pregnancy, but it also ensures that your baby is getting all the nutrients needed for proper growth and development. It’s also important to take care of your mental health during and after your pregnancy. Many women suffer from post-natal depression alone without seeking help.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).