Antenatal care

Antenatal Care – A Guide to Healthy Pregnancy

Manasi Roy, 26, heard of antenatal care for the first time when she got pregnant with her child.

Unsure if she needed regular antenatal check-ups, Manasi came to Dr. Kusum Lata Bhardwaj, Consultant Obstetrician at Sitaram Bhartia, with some of her concerns.

Is antenatal care important?

Antenatal care consists of healthcare services provided by professionals to the mother during her pregnancy.

“Routine check-ups help us keep track of your health as well as your baby’s,” said Dr. Kusum Lata Bhardwaj. “Proper antenatal care promotes a healthy gestation and prevents potential problems.”

Manasi asked her doctor for some antenatal care guidelines suitable for her pregnancy.

1. First-trimester antenatal care

Manasi wanted to confirm when to start antenatal care with her doctor. “Contact your healthcare professional as soon as you know you are pregnant.”

Your doctor will create a proper care plan for you at your first visit using the following information –

  • Duration and regularity of menstrual cycles and last menstrual period
  • Your personal and family medical history
  • Health check-up of you and your baby
  • History of previous pregnancies

Physical examinations, blood tests and ultrasounds, such as screening tests for fetal abnormalities like Down’s syndrome are taken at 3 month pregnancy.

“Keeping a check on the fetus is important for the first few months to help in early detection of any medical conditions or any growth lags occurring in the baby.”

Chances of detecting any threatened abortion or missed abortion also increase with monitoring.

Visits will be scheduled to check your weight and blood pressure every four weeks hereon.

At her doctor’s advice, Manasi made sure she got all her lab tests done on time.

2. Second-trimester antenatal care

Your visits in the second-trimester help keep track of your baby’s growth as well as your routine vitals like blood pressure and weight.

“During this time you will be able to feel fluttering sensations in your lower abdomen – these are signs of your baby’s movements.”

Manasi was overjoyed to know she would be able to listen to her baby’s heartbeat in this trimester with the help of her doctor.

Around 4 month pregnancy, antenatal visits also include some important screening tests, tests to exclude gestational diabetes, and a level 2 ultrasound scan that monitors possible chromosomal and structural anomalies in your baby.

3. Third-trimester antenatal care

The frequency of your antenatal visits increases by the third trimester. Antenatal care in this time focuses on your baby’s position and a healthy delivery.

“The baby needs to be positioned headfirst in the uterus before delivery. Your doctor also keeps track of cervical changes as your body prepares for birth.”

Important Antenatal Care Tips

“Remember that pregnancy is not an illness, just a natural life stage,” encouraged Dr. Kusum Lata Bhardwaj.

Keep these simple tips in mind during your pregnancy for a healthy baby and delivery-

  • Keep track of your nutrition intake: Manasi was encouraged to eat nutrition-rich meals for healthy and easy delivery.

Consult your dietician for pregnancy foods you should eat according to your pre-pregnancy weight.

Additional supplements such as folic acid, calcium and iron can be prescribed by the doctor if needed.

  • Engage in light exercises: Incorporate light exercise such as walking for at least 30-40 mins into your daily routine. You can also do some stretching exercises or yoga.

“Back strengthening exercises help ease body aches. In addition, you can do 20-30 mins of specifically designed antenatal exercises as well.”

  • Deal with gastric complications: Manasi developed some gastric issues during her pregnancy. She was advised to incorporate some dietary changes in her lifestyle.
    • Eat smaller more frequent meals, and avoid staying on an empty stomach for long.
    • Stay away from carbonated drinks, processed junk food or fried foods to prevent acidity.
    • There is no need to eat double portions – track your calorie intake instead.
  • Create a support system: Your family and life partner can be the greatest source of strength and support for you, especially in the third trimester.

Manasi realized she could rely on them for responsibilities that she would not be able to carry out like strenuous chores.

After her consultation, Manasi understood the importance of proper antenatal care during pregnancy and looked forward to a healthy delivery.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Kusum Lata Bhardwaj

MBBS Panjab University, Chandigarh (2008); MD Panjab University, PGIMER, Chandigarh (2012); DNB National Board of Examinations (2013)

Experience: 10+ years

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