With some simple guidelines and a little research you can find answers to these big questions and be on your way to a happy, healthy pregnancy.
When to go
According to Anita Greig, a Toronto-based family physician, the best time to start your pre-natal care is before you become pregnant. Greig encourages women to come in for pre-conception counselling to cover a wide range of topics from vaccinations to vitamins, as well as for a general check-up.
"There's so much that needs to be discussed prior to conception that can take a big role in terms of prevention," she says. "I wish patients knew to come in before conception. I wish they knew to start the folic acid. I wish they knew to have their vaccinations up-to-date."
Folic acid is the vitamin used to prevent neural tube defects such as Spina bifida, and vaccinations will help ensure that a woman doesn't come down with viruses like German measles and chicken pox, which can cause health complications for both mother and baby. Greig also covers issues such as diet, exercise, medications and pre-existing health concerns, so that women can be in the best possible health before they conceive.
What to expect
If you are already pregnant, it's important to start seeing your healthcare provider on a regular basis to make sure that you and your baby are healthy and to identify any problems early on.
According to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, at your first pre-natal check-up your healthcare provider will usually take a detailed background of your family history and ask about how you've been feeling. You'll also likely have a pelvic exam to check the size and shape of your uterus, and your blood and urine will be screened to identify any underlying health problems.
Page 1 of 2At this and following visits you will also be weighed and have your blood pressure taken, and at around 18 weeks an ultrasound will be done to pinpoint your due date, check on the position of the placenta and monitor your baby's overall growth and health.
"We usually have women come in approximately every four weeks for the first seven months," says Greig. "Every two weeks for the eighth month, and weekly for the ninth."
After your baby is born, your healthcare provider will want to continue to monitor the two of you to make sure you are off to a healthy start together.
Your healthcare team
But who should be caring for you during your pregnancy? The Canadian Women's Health Network says that because of a shortage of obstetricians in Canada, there are nurses, family physicians and midwives who can share much of the burden of maternity care.
With a low-risk pregnancy, often your family physician or midwife is able to provide all the pre-natal care necessary, and many can go on to deliver your baby as well. If complications arise you will be referred on to an obstetrician, who has the specialized skills necessary to deal with pre-natal complications.
The benefit of this approach, is that you can see a specialist while still having the support of your regular caregiver, whom you have an established relationship and are comfortable with. They will take ample time to address your questions and concerns.
However, Greig says that women who are high-risk should definitely have a consultation from an obstetrician, or seek out an obstetrician as their primary caregiver.
"The key is to provide a balanced approach, and there are different advantages to each method of practice," she says. "I think we all have a role to play, and it depends on the risk of the pregnancy and the type of care the patient wants."
For more information visit:
Canadian Association of Midwives
Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada
College of Family Physicians of Canada
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