Pre- And Post-Natal Care
It is important to visit a doctor during your pregnancy for prenatal care. “Prenatal” means the time before your baby is born. A lot happens in your body while you’re pregnant, so it’s a good idea to have a doctor monitor you and your baby’s health. Your doctor will be able to measure your baby’s growth, and detect problems.
Ideally, you’ll schedule your first prenatal visit within the first 8-10 weeks of your pregnancy. While you may still be adjusting to the idea of being pregnant, and may not want to think or talk about it yet, it is very important that you receive early prenatal care.
Your First Appointment
At your first appointment, your doctor will:
- Talk to you about your pregnancy.
- Ask you questions about your health, your medical history, your family medical history, your use of birth control, your menstrual periods, any past pregnancies you’ve had, and any medications you’re taking.
- Figure out your due date.
- Check your weight, height and blood pressure.
Your doctor may:
- Examine your vagina and cervix (the opening of your uterus).
- Conduct blood or urine tests.
Your doctor will also tell you how often you should visit the office during your pregnancy. Your pregnancy will be described as three “trimesters.” Each trimester is three months long. First trimester is months 1-3 of your pregnancy, second is months 4-6 and third is months 7-9. Typically, during the first and second trimester, you’ll have an appointment once a month. In the third trimester, you’ll begin to visit the doctor more frequently. Your doctor may decide to see you more often throughout your pregnancy depending on how things are going.
Continuing Prenatal Care
Prenatal care may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Measuring your abdomen (belly) to track your baby’s growth
- Listening to your baby’s heart beat
- Pelvic exams
- Checking your baby’s position as you get closer to your due date
To get the most out of your prenatal visits, write down any questions or concerns you want to ask ahead of time and bring those with you. It’s okay to feel shy, but remember, there is probably nothing your doctor hasn’t heard before! It’s common to have questions about pregnancy, the changes in your body, birth, and sex, among lots of other things. Your doctor expects you to ask questions.
Now that you’ve had your baby, your body needs to recover. As well as caring for your baby, you must take care of yourself. Your pregnancy and delivery will have caused changes in your body that will take some time to heal, like soreness from delivery, tears or cuts near your vagina, or breast pain.
While You’re Healing
While you’re healing, make sure you:
- Get as much rest as you can.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions about exercise and sex.
- Attend a postpartum visit with your doctor.
Your doctor will want to see you 4-6 weeks after your delivery to check up on how you’re doing. If you had a c-section, the doctor may want to see you sooner to check your incision. At your postpartum visit, the doctor will examine your vagina, cervix, and breasts. It’s a good time to talk about any problems you are having with breastfeeding, any questions you have about your health or your baby’s, and birth control. If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, don’t wait until your postpartum visit to bring it up. Call your doctor right away to get some help.
Your Recovering Body
Absolutely normal things include:
- Vaginal discharge – For the first few days after your delivery, you will experience a heavy flow of blood from your vagina. This will eventually get thinner in consistency and lighter in color, and should last four to six weeks. To prevent infection, use sanitary pads to absorb the discharge, not tampons. Don’t be alarmed if you pass clots of blood (If the clots are bigger than a golf ball, though, call your doctor).
- Contractions – Sometimes these pains are called “after pains.” They are often like menstrual cramps, and your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relief medication.
- Breast pain or soreness – Your breasts may feel sore, heavy, full, or tender. Milk may leak from your nipples. You may find applying cold wash clothes or ice packs to your breasts is helpful. If you are breastfeeding, nursing your baby or pumping your milk may make you more comfortable. If you are not breastfeeding, don’t express or pump your milk—that signals your body to make more! Instead, wearing a bra that compresses your breasts, like a firm sports bra, may help. You can use nursing pads (available at the drug store) inside your bra to absorb any leaks.
- Emotions – You may find yourself very emotional after your delivery. The hormonal changes in your body may make you feel like you’re on a roller-coaster of feelings. Many women experience the “baby blues” feeling sad or moody for the first week or so after delivery.
- Vaginal soreness – You may be recovering from tears in your vagina, or an episiotomy (the doctor made an incision in the tissue between your vaginal opening and anus), and the whole area may be swollen and sore from the delivery.
- Urinary problems – Urination may sting if you have tears or abrasions around the vaginal area. Pouring warm water over the area while you urinate may help.
- Bowel problems – You may have hemorrhoids (enlarged veins around the anus) or constipation.
Contact Your Doctor Immediately If…
- Your vaginal discharge has a foul odor, or if you pass clots larger than a golf ball.
- You have a fever.
- If it hurts to touch your stomach.
- You are so sad you cannot care for yourself or your baby.
- If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
- If you experience any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:
- You have intense mood swings.
- You are crying a lot.
- You feel hopeless or worthless.
- You lose interest in your baby, or the activities of your life.
- You are eating or sleeping too much or too little.
Most parents feel overwhelmed sometimes—caring for yourself and your newborn is a lot of responsibility. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from the people you trust.