Congratulations, you are pregnant! Or maybe you just want to research ahead of time to make sure you’re well informed. Whatever your reason, Pickles & Ice Cream is here to guide you! Remember we are not a replacement for your provider. However, we are a source of well-researched information, with the goal of helping you fill in some knowledge gaps. We want to leave you feeling informed, empowered, and prepared to speak with your provider about your needs!
This a large and seemingly daunting topic. Don’t worry! We are here to help break it down and hopefully make it all simpler to understand. Prenatal care is the type of preventative healthcare you receive throughout your pregnancy. This series of appointments with your doctor, midwife, and even your dentist is designed to prevent any problems from arising during pregnancy. Prenatal care is designed to catch small problems early and then treat & monitor these issues to prevent them from becoming worse.
The prenatal care process is different for everyone and depends on your health status before you became pregnant, as well as the individual way your body is adjusting to pregnancy. If you are over the age of 35 or under the age of 18, have a chronic disease, or other health issues, you may be considered a high risk pregnancy; your prenatal schedule will look a little different than the one we are about to discuss here. For the average healthy person, you will need to check in with your doctor around every 4 to 6 weeks for the first 32 weeks of your pregnancy, every 2 to 3 weeks for the 32nd to 37th week of pregnancy, and then once a week from the 37th week of pregnancy until you deliver.
If you feel or see anything during your pregnancy that you have questions about, write it down so that you do not forget when you go to your prenatal care appointments. (If you see anything that you register as an emergency such as severe pain, heavy bleeding, trouble breathing, or chest pain, contact your provider immediately.) Your provider will go over any pre-existing conditions you may have, as well as the medical history of you and your partner’s families. Depending on your week of pregnancy, your provider may perform an ultrasound. They will also perform a pelvic exam where they will perform a pap smear to test for HPV (human papillomavirus) and a cell culture to test for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Your provider will do a series of prenatal blood tests including a whole blood count, and tests for diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, rubella, and syphilis.
Your partner will also need to undergo a blood test to determine you and your partner’s blood type and Rh (Rhesus) factor. This is an important test, because if the mother is Rh negative and the father of the child is Rh positive, the mother and her fetus may be Rh incompatible. If this is the case, your provider will have to take special care to be sure the mother’s blood never interacts with the blood of the fetus during pregnancy. Your provider will also offer genetic testing to screen for genetic diseases and chromosomal issues in your fetus such as Down Syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
On top of prenatal care appointments, many people also attend educational classes to prepare them for childbirth and parenting. Lamaze class, which many people commonly hear about, helps to prepare you for the birthing process and to build your birthing plan so that you are not overwhelmed on your labor day. Breastfeeding classes teach new parents how to help the child properly latch to the breast and how to problem solve when breastfeeding gets difficult. The type of provider you choose may influence your choice on classes. A doula may cover all the information that would be in a Lamaze and/or breastfeeding class during your sessions. A doctor or midwife may recommend a particular class to you based on your needs. You can sign up for free, online prenatal classes with Pickles & Ice Cream Georgia here.
Vaccinations While Pregnant
Vaccines are an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Moms, get a whooping cough vaccine (also called Tdap) and a flu shot during each pregnancy. Did you know a baby gets disease immunity (protection) from mom during pregnancy? This immunity can protect baby from some diseases during the first few months of life. Learn more here.
Doctor vs. Midwife – It’s up to you!
When making the decision on who will care for you during your pregnancy, you have two main choices: a doctor or a midwife. This is your journey, your body, and your child, which means you get to decide who you want on your medical team. The most important part of choosing your birthing team is to be sure everyone is certified and licensed and that your provider listens to you and respects your wishes around your pregnancy and birth plan.
It is pretty easy to check your doctor’s credentials. If they are legally practicing, then they are certified and can provide any medical service you need.
Midwives come in varying levels of trainings and certifications. A certified nurse-midwife is certified to do everything a nurse or nurse practitioner could do. A certified nurse-midwife can order tests, give labor related drugs, and perform all after-birth care.
A doula is licensed to support and educate you through the birthing process. Doulas will help guide you through a home, hospital, or birth center labor. They can identify when the labor has become complicated and if a doctor needs to become involved. Doulas are there to be your personal advocate throughout the birthing process. They can also be very helpful with managing labor pains with massage, pressure and movement techniques. Women who use doulas report higher satisfaction with their birth experience and have overall improved birth outcomes. (It is important to note that a doula cannot provide medical care – doulas are NOT a substitute for a doctor or midwife.) If you need a doula referral, you can call the Georgia Family Healthline at 1-800-300-9003.
Stages of Pregnancy
Pregnancy is broken up into three trimesters over the course of around 40 weeks.
The first trimester lasts from week 0 to 12. This is the time where your baby’s nervous system and internal organs are developing. By the end of the third month, your baby has arms, hands, fingers, feet, and toes, but doesn’t quite look like a baby just yet. Their reproductive organs are also developing, but will not be clear in an ultrasound. At this stage, you will be going to a prenatal check-up every 4 to 6 weeks unless otherwise suggested by your doctor.
The second trimester is from weeks 13 to 27. During the second trimester, the baby’s eyes begin to move, they will develop the ability to hear, and their sucking reflex will develop so they may begin to suck their thumb. By 25 weeks, they have hair, fingerprints, and footprints, and will begin to respond to your voice! At this stage, you will begin going to your doctor around every 2 to 3 weeks.
The third trimester is from weeks 28 to 40. By 28 weeks, your baby’s eyes begin to partially open and by 29 weeks, they are kicking and stretching! By week 33, they will have begun to practice breathing. By week 37, your baby should have repositioned themselves with their head down toward your pelvis. If they have not, this is called a breached birth, and your doctor will discuss your options with you. By this stage you are going to the doctor every 1 to 2 weeks and your due date is quickly approaching.
When it comes to your birthing options there are two choices, vaginal birth or C-section.
Vaginal birth is when the child is pushed out of the uterus through the mother’s vagina. Labor can range anywhere from 2 hours to over 36 hours. If you are giving birth at a hospital, you will need to make a decision on whether or not you would like to be medicated during labor. Hospital births are not your only option though; home birth and water birth are also viable options. Home births are when you give birth in your home with a licensed doula or midwife present. A water birth is when you give birth in a pool of warm water. This can either be a bathtub at home, a birthing pool brought to your home by your licensed doula or midwife, or at a birthing center or hospital with a birthing pool available. There are many benefits to a water birth, including a less stress on mom and baby and reduced vaginal tearing.
A Cesarean delivery (also known as a C-section) is a surgical procedure that involves making an incision through the abdomen and uterus and physically removing the fetus from the mother’s body. Planned and emergency C-sections are performed for a number of different reasons, including maternal and fetal stress, obstructed labor, breech birth, or transverse birth (the baby is sideways instead of head first). While C-sections have grown more common, it is important to remember that it is still a major surgery.
People who undergo C-sections are more at risk for blood clots, infections, postpartum hemorrhaging, and increased risk during future births. The United States has some of the highest C-section rates in the world, and with that, some of the highest rates of maternal health complications for a developed nation. Be sure you are making the decision that is best for you and your future child, and don’t be afraid to ask for outside help and second opinions if you feel uncomfortable.
Planning What’s Next!
Birth Control Planning
Even though you are still pregnant, now is the time to start thinking about what you want motherhood to look like! Do you want another baby? Maybe you want to stop at one. Whatever your choice – be sure to talk with your provider about birth control options. Either way, you will want to wait 18 – 24 months before becoming pregnant again.
Once you have your baby, you won’t have a lot of time for planning. It’s time to rest and spend as much time with baby as you can. So, while you are pregnant, it’s a good time to make your postpartum plan! Here are two great templates from Nashville Doulas and Postpartum Support Virginia you can use for free!
You may also want to think about using a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula provides evidenced-based information on things such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, mother-baby bonding, infant soothing, and basic newborn care. Research shows that moms, dads, and babies have an easier time with this transition if a good support team is in place. If you need a doula referral, you can call the Georgia Family Healthline at 1-800-300-9003.