Ante Natal checkups refer to the schedule of regular health examinations in pregnancy. These have evolved over the past 150 years into sophisticated system which has brought down maternal and foetal mortality to very low levels in some of the developed countries.
There are many conditions in pregnancy which cause a poor outcome. Principal amongst them are high blood pressure in pregnancy, anaemia of pregnancy, diabetes of pregnancy. Regular checkups will enable early detection of these conditions so that early treatment can be instituted.
The ante natal checkups are the time when the growth of your baby can be monitored. Early detection of growth retardation in utero will help us institute the proper treatment.
What is the normal schedule of ante natal checkups?
The schedule of ante natal check up is based on the age of pregnancy. Generally you are required to go to the doctor every month till 28 weeks of pregnancy, then every fortnight till 36 weeks of pregnancy and then weekly till delivery.
What to expect?
On your first visit, the doctor will take a detailed history of your pregnancy and associated medical conditions. Mention any health condition you have had like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney problems, liver disease and anaemia. Also disclose to your doctor your complete gynaecological and obstetric history including any abortions and the timing and reasons for those abortions. Also inform the doctor about any drug allergies.
Apart from these also let your doctor know about yours and your husband’s blood group if you happen to know them. This is often a good time to clarify your doubts with the doctor.
The doctor will then proceed to examine you. After a general physical examination that would include looking under your eyes and tongue, taking your pulse and checking your B.P, the doctor will then examine your abdomen for size of uterus and so on. During this time you will need to have to abdomen exposed. After this the doctor will listen to your heart and check your breast and neck to rule out problems with breasts or thyroid.
During this visit your height and weight will also be noted.
Following this first visit at every visit you can expect your B.P and weight to be measured. You will then be subjected to a similar medical examination as earlier times.
With the advent of ultrasound PV examination is not carried out during the initial months of pregnancy. PV exam is carried out only in the last trimester to assess pelvis and during labour.
What test will be done initially and then at every visit?
The doctor will also order a few tests to confirm pregnancy and also to estimate other parameters. You might have already tested positive using one of those home pregnancies kits, but is always better to confirm pregnancy using one of the more sensitive assays.
The other test which you need to do include a test for haemoglobin, cell counts, liver function test, kidney function tests, blood grouping, HIV, VDRL, HbsAg and few others.
After this initial battery of test at every visit you should get your blood and urine checked for haemoglobin and proteinuria at every visit.
Will I be given any injections during the ante natal checkups?
You will also need to undergo two shots of tetanus at least six weeks before labour. These shots are conveniently administered at six week intervals between 20-28 weeks of pregnancy. The tetanus shots are very important because they will provide passive immunity to the baby against tetanus.
Other that this no other shots are advised during pregnancy. Always check with your doctor about any new vaccine you are about to take.