COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Nurturing a healthy baby starts with a complete program of prenatal care, according to Brad Lucas, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Buckeye Community Health Plan.
"In order to monitor the health of both mother and baby, regularly scheduled checkups and essential. The doctor will monitor the baby's growth as well as the mother's health and will be able to treat any problems as soon as they arise," Dr. Lucas said.
He explained that the expectant mother and her caregiver will become close partners over the next nine months, so it's critical that the mother chooses someone she can trust.
Ob-gyns specialize in the reproductive care of women and are the first choice of the majority of women in America. Still, doctors have different personalities and varying opinions about some procedures. Feeling comfortable with your ob-gyn's manner and philosophy will help ensure a good experience. Ask friends or relatives for the names of doctors they like.
Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are registered nurses who are trained to care for women and their babies through pregnancy and the weeks following delivery. These professionals can treat healthy women with normal pregnancies but must have an arrangement with a doctor to provide backup in the event of medical problems.
As soon as a woman suspects she may be pregnant, she should see a medical professional, Dr. Lucas said.
What to expect on the first visit
The doctor will take an extensive medical history of the mother and the baby's father, including menstrual history, any previous pregnancies, and diseases or genetic disorders that might run in either family. The doctor also will discuss any habits the parents may have that could pose a danger to the baby, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs. All information will be kept confidential.
In addition, the doctor will perform an examination, conduct lab tests, determine the due date, and begin to chart the mother's weight gain. The doctor may also prescribe a prenatal vitamin and provide nutrition and exercise advice.
Follow up visits
Dr. Lucas said the frequency of prenatal visits depends on individual circumstances. A typical pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks and is divided into three trimesters.
"In normal pregnancies, the mother typically visits the doctor once a month during the first and second trimesters. Beginning at about 28 weeks, visits may increase to every two weeks, and then weekly from 36 weeks until delivery," he said.
Women at higher risk of complications may require more frequent checkups. These women may be over the age of 35, have had difficulty conceiving or carrying a baby, be carrying multiple fetuses, have a higher risk of birth defects, or have conditions such as gestational diabetes, Dr. Lucas explained.
At each checkup, the doctor will take a urine sample to ensure that sugar and protein levels are appropriate. The doctor will also chart weight gain, check blood pressure, examine the mother's hands and feet for swelling, measure the size of the uterus, and check the baby's heartbeat.
Dr. Lucas also recommended that pregnant women get vaccinations against influenza to protect the baby during pregnancy and after birth.
"Pregnant women who get influenza vaccine pass their immunity to their babies in the form of flu antibodies. This protection lasts for several months after birth. Babies born to women who were not vaccinated during pregnancy showed no antibody protection," he said.
Dr. Lucas added that research shows no association between flu vaccination during pregnancy and miscarriage. For more information about influenza vaccines and pregnancy, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/.
He suggested that women should keep a list of questions for every doctor visit so they can ask about any concerns or issues as they occur.
"Expectant mothers should take advantage of these visits to learn about the development of the baby and to discuss the many questions they will have about having a healthy pregnancy and preparing for motherhood," Lucas said.
Buckeye Community Health Plan is a managed care plan that has been providing services in Ohio since 2004. Buckeye is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading multi-line healthcare enterprise offering both core Medicaid and specialty services. Information regarding Buckeye is available via the Internet at www.bchpohio.com. Buckeye can be followed on Twitter as @Buckeye_Health.
SOURCE Buckeye Community Health Plan