Q&A: What to Expect When Navigating Prenatal Care
Prenatal care, or health care for expecting mothers beginning at the first missed period and carrying throughout their pregnancy, is a vital part of ensuring your baby starts off on the right foot.
However, juggling doctor’s appointments, healthy habits and your everyday responsibilities can be tough.
We spoke with Melissa Mosczczynski, CRNP, a nurse practitioner specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at Jefferson Health - Abington, about some of the most commonly-asked questions on prenatal care. Here’s what you need to know.
Q: I’m pregnant! When should I see a medical professional?
Mosczczynski: Typically, with a positive pregnancy test, you should call right away. But, don’t jump the gun on that first test. Take one only after your first missed period, as false positives are possible.
At Abington, we have a pregnancy hotline with nurses standing by to answer questions and get you booked for your first visit.
While you’re on the phone with one of our nurses, expect questions like, “When was the first day of your last period?” and “Have you been pregnant before?” These are important to gauge the amount of time you’ve been pregnant, and any elevated risk for complications.
Typically, for patients without an elevated risk profile, we like to schedule their first appointment between weeks eight and ten. If you have a history of miscarriage, we will aim for six weeks.
Q: What happens during a prenatal appointment?
Mosczczynski: The first appointment is always the longest because we ask a lot of questions and perform a full exam. During the appointment, we will administer a pap smear, breast check and assign blood work, as well as a quick check of your weight and blood pressure. We will also dig into your personal and family health history so we know what to look out for.
For example, if you or a female relative experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy complications, we would want to make a note of that. Then, around week ten, we will schedule a fetal heart test.
After that, the appointments are pretty easy. There might be an ultrasound, but most appointments are wellness visits.
Q: What healthy habits should I be trying to incorporate? Which habits should I leave behind?
Mosczczynski: If you are ready to start a family and are trying to conceive, you should start taking prenatal vitamins. These are an important part of preconception care. They are formulated to give your body what it needs, especially folic acid. Folic acid protects your baby from spina bifida and other birth defects.
Staying hydrated is key. You should be drinking plenty of water, to the tune of about 32 ounces per day or more.
I always recommend pregnant women avoid raw foods like sushi and oysters, as well as lunch meat or soft cheeses. None of these foods are innately harmful, but they could contain bacteria that are unsafe for pregnant women. All dairy products should be pasteurized.
Q: Are my over-the-counter medications safe?
Mosczczynski: Acetominophen pain relievers like Tylenol are okay, but over the counter pain relievers like Advil (Ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen), and oral decongestants should be avoided. They have blood-thinning qualities which may have a negative impact on blood flow and pressure. You should also get a flu shot.
Q: Is there anything else I should know?
Mosczczynski: Look out for minor cramping and discomfort during your first trimester. Your uterus is a muscle, and it has likely never been this big before. Cramping doesn’t mean anything is wrong or bad.
In the same vein, light spotting is normal and okay during pregnancy, but consistent or major bleeding are a concern.
When in doubt, call your provider or OB-GYN. We have the helpline because we want to help, and we don’t want you to be stressed out. We are here to support you and make this the best experience possible.