What is antenatal care?
Antenatal care is the care you receive from your healthcare provider starting from the moment you are pregnant and continuing during the course of your pregnancy. Though a series of appointments with your obstetrician/gynaecologist, you receive useful information and support in form of screening tests, routine examination and counselling needed for a healthy pregnancy.
Why do you need antenatal care?
Get in touch with your general practitioner or gynaecologist when you learn that you are pregnant so that you can start your antenatal care. It is best you schedule your visit at the earliest so that your doctor can provide you the maternity healthcare for a healthy pregnancy. Regular monitoring of your health can help detect any complications at an early stage itself before it leads to an emergency situation.
Which specialist should you consult if you are pregnant?
Once you find out that you are pregnant or suspect a pregnancy, schedule an appointment with your general practitioner or a gynaecologist.
What is the procedure for antenatal care?
The Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) project by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has outlined a schedule for antenatal care in the country. Every pregnant woman must make at least four visits as part of her antenatal care support.
The first ANC check-up should be scheduled within 12 weeks, or as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed, second ANC check-up between 14 and 26 weeks, 3rd ANC check-up at 28-34 weeks, and the 4th ANC check-up between 36-40 weeks.
The first ANC visit is a detailed consultation wherein you will be required to give an elaborate account of your general health, allergies, past and current illnesses, habits, and previous pregnancies if any.
Your healthcare professional will ask you about the following:
- The first day of your last period
- Your general health
- Previous illnesses and surgeries
- Past pregnancies or miscarriages, if any
- Your overall emotional health
- Any known hereditary conditions in your or your partner’s family
Your doctor will outline a specific schedule for antenatal checks depending upon preliminary test results of your health and the information on medical history shared by you. For instance, the ANC pattern will be modified if you are carrying twins because you will need more frequent visits. The schedule of antenatal care can be modified to suit a low/normal/high risk pregnancy to ensure the safety and health of you and your baby.
What are the screening tests and investigations done during antenatal care?
The following investigations are carried out during the course of your pregnancy:
- 6-10 weeks: First visit involves tracking your medical history, examination, lab tests (blood type, Rh factor, haemoglobin, immunity check), and lifestyle issues.
- 11-14 weeks: Ultrasound test, first trimester screening (FTS) for chromosomal anomalies.
- 15-20 weeks: Results of foetal anomaly tests and ultrasound are reviewed along with more detailed foetal anomaly scans; basic blood, urine tests.
- 20-24 weeks: Routine visits, antenatal classes.
- 24 weeks to full term: Along with your routine visits, BP, urine and blood tests, and cervix/vaginal examinations will keep a check on your health in your final trimester of pregnancy. Your doctor will assess foetal growth, enquire about foetal movements, and discuss birth/labour plan with you.
What precautions or steps are necessary to stay healthy and happy antenatal care?
You will be encouraged to ask questions and your healthcare provider will answer your queries and guide you on medicines, diet, exercise, necessary examinations, along with dos and don’ts during pregnancy.