During pregnancy, women can expect to have frequent checkups with their obstetrician. Prenatal care, or the care you get while pregnant, is important not just for mothers, but for baby as well. But what is prenatal care, and why do women need it?

It can seem tedious to keep so many appointments with your doctor, but regular check-ins ensure that your baby is healthy, and can help doctors find and treat problems early on. Women who do not seek prenatal care are three times more likely to have premature births, and five times more likely to suffer a loss of their baby. Positive maternity outcomes start with pre and postnatal care.

What Happens During a Prenatal Visit?

During your first prenatal visit, your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, a pelvic exam, and Pap test. They will also order bloodwork, discuss your personal and family health histories, check your blood pressure, and calculate your due date. The appointments that follow consist of more routine bloodwork, checking weight and blood pressure, and monitoring your baby’s heartbeat.

Your doctor will also perform tests to detect preeclampsia, diabetes, any diseases or infections, and screen for any genetic or chromosomal disorders. During prenatal visits, your doctor will also discuss diet and exercise, which can help ease discomfort from backaches and swelling. Your doctor will also discuss what to expect during the postpartum period, or the first six to twelve weeks after birth.

Women should schedule their first postpartum visit within the first 3 weeks after delivery. Depending on how complicated your pregnancy is that may change. A lot of changes occur during the postpartum period, and there are things we can catch at these visits like blood pressure issues, mood changes, and other concerns. So it’s very important for women to schedule these visits within those first few weeks after bringing their newborn home.

Latrice Johnson, MD

OB/GYN, Mount St. Mary's Center for Women

The Importance of Postnatal Care Following Delivery

While a lot of attention is given to prenatal care, postnatal care is equally important. When a baby is born, mothers experience a whirlwind of emotions and many physical changes as they begin to care for their newborn. Your first postnatal care visit should be within three weeks after birth.

During postnatal visits, your doctor will perform a physical exam, provide breastfeeding instruction, nutrition and exercise consulting, and check in on your mental health. Many mothers experience what is known as the “baby blues” the first few weeks post birth. While the “baby blues” tend to go away on their own, many mothers continue to struggle with feelings of depression, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, and crying spells.

The “baby blues” can begin within 2 days after delivery, and can last for up to two weeks. Mothers who are experiencing more severe symptoms that last longer may be suffering from postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is common and treatable with medication or talking with a licensed mental health provider.

During your postnatal visits, it’s important to bring up any concerns and discuss how you are feeling emotionally. It is normal to be overtired and anxious due to lack of sleep and self-care, while caring for a newborn. These visits are intended to help alleviate some of the stress you may be feeling as your doctor can prescribe an anti-depressant or refer you to a therapist.

More Than a Routine Visit

Pre and postnatal visits are more than just routine appointments, they ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy mom and baby. Our OB/GYN experts provide comprehensive, quality pre and postnatal care, ensuring you have a complication-free delivery and postpartum period. To learn more about our women care services, call (716) 923-7152.

Find an OB/GYN Near You
Call (716) 923-7152

Find an OB/GYN Near You
Call (716) 923-7152