Prenatal care a wise choice for you and your baby
By Shauna Krawchuk
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, September 13, 2021
Whether it's your first pregnancy or you have been pregnant before, prenatal care is one of the best ways of taking care of yourself and your unborn baby.
Receiving prenatal care early and throughout your pregnancy helps you make informed choices, identify and address health concerns, and learn more about your growing baby and your changing body. Prenatal care is also an opportunity to bond with your unborn baby. Hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time can make it feel so real.
Another reason to have prenatal care with each pregnancy is because medical information and recommendations can change. This means what your health care provider recommends today may be different from what your parents or friends were told and may even be different from your first pregnancy. For example, at one time exercise was not recommended during pregnancy. Now we know exercise helps improve the pregnant person's physical and mental health and prepare their body for labour and delivery.
In Manitoba, health care is insured (paid for) through our medical system. Finding a health care provider that is a good fit for you and your growing family is important. This may depend on your personal preferences, medical risk factors and availability. Depending on your community your options may include a family doctor, obstetrician or registered midwife.
Once you have your health care provider, it is best to have your first prenatal appointment between 10-14 weeks of pregnancy. At this visit, your provider will:
- Confirm your pregnancy.
- Ask you about your health and any medical conditions.
- Offer you a physical examination including checking your weight and blood pressure and performing a Pap test, if needed.
- Request lab tests, including a urine test to check for bacteria and a blood test to confirm your blood type and Rh factor, check your iron levels, and check for antibodies for common communicable diseases.
Follow-up prenatal appointments will be scheduled once a month until you are 28 weeks pregnant, then every two weeks between until 36 weeks of pregnancy, and then every week until you give birth.
Many expectant parents have questions about how COVID-19 will affect their prenatal care and how best to protect their unborn baby. Most prenatal care appointments will be done in person. The main change is you will need to wear medical mask at your appointment. Public health recommendations such as social distancing, mask wearing, good hand hygiene and vaccination are the best ways to protect your family. Evidence shows that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are safe to get at any stage in pregnancy and will not harm your unborn baby. The vaccines are very effective at reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death and can help prevent pregnancy complications for parent and baby. This is also the best protection you can provide for your newborn at this time because if you are vaccinated it decreases the risk that you will develop COVID and expose your baby.
In addition to your health care provider, there are other resources available to you. Public Health and Primary Care have resources and programs that can support you and your growing family prenatally or postpartum such as Healthy Baby/Healthy Start or breastfeeding groups. Healthy Parenting Winnipeg's website has a list of these offices in Winnipeg. This website also offers credible, non-judgmental information for people who are pregnant and/or are parenting and caring for infants and young children. Topics include: child health and safety, breastfeeding, mental health, physical activity, nutrition, immunization and much more.
Pregnancy is an important time for you and your unborn baby. Remember that you don't have to go it alone. There's a wealth of information, resources and services to support you. Making the decision to access prenatal care early is a great choice.
Shauna Krawchuk is Public Health Nurse, Health Communications with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.