Of course it’s vital to keep yourself healthy, to eat well, not smoke and get plenty of rest when you’re pregnant but I would say the single most important thing you can do to ensure a successful pregnancy is to make sure you get good antenatal care and don’t miss any of your appointments.
Antenatal appointments allow doctors and midwives to monitor your health, and that of your unborn child and can also flag up any early problems that may need treatment, such as a mother being anaemic or a baby not growing as fast as it should.
Pregnant women are offered two ultrasound scans to check the health of their baby. The first is the dating scan, which takes place between 8 and 14 weeks. It tells doctors how many babies you’re having, how big they are and the estimated due date. This scan can be timed to include the Nuchal Translucency (NT) scan, which is part of the combined screening test for Down’s Syndrome. Women are also given blood tests to check for HIV, anaemia and any other blood disorders.
Regular check-ups are the key to a successful pregnancy
The second scan is the anomaly scan or mid-pregnancy scan that takes place between 18 and 21 weeks. This scan can check for structural abnormalities in the baby. Some women may need more scans to monitor their own health and baby’s health and development. It is important to attend antenatal classes and be pro-active in pregnancy to prepare for a safe birth.
As an expectant mother you also need to make sure you go to all your doctor appointments, to check your blood pressure and general health. For example high blood pressure can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which can reduce the blood flow through the placenta, thereby limiting the baby’s growth. Women over 40 are subject to more antenatal checks, and are often seen by doctors rather than midwives, simply because there are higher risks of conditions such as pre-eclampsia.
Regular antenatal checks, especially towards the end of the pregnancy are also vital to give doctors more information about the position of the baby and anything that might cause problems during delivery. For example if your placenta is low in late pregnancy or the baby is in a breech position you may need to have a Caesarean section and this information is vital to allow the medical team to prepare for a safe and successful birth.