When should you visit your doctor during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is not a disease! Why see a doctor then?! Well, it's a special physiological state and needs special care. It's important to see the doctor to ensure all is well with both, the expectant mom and the baby, and to take corrective measures when required. Often couples delay the first visit and sometimes, may land up in an emergency with early pregnancy complications.
Organised prenatal care (care of an expectant mother) was introduced in United States by social reformers and nurses in 1901. This work of nurse visits to women enrolled in the home delivery service of the Boston Lying-in hospital was so successful that an outpatient prenatal clinic (one of the first) was established in 1911. In 1954, Nicholas J. Eastman credited organised prenatal care with having "done more to save mothers' lives in our time than any other single factor"!
We've come a long way since then and can salvage a lot more babies and ensure healthier mothers. Follow this guide to know when you should visit your doctor during pregnancy:
1. Scheduled visits
Through the course of pregnancy, there are visits scheduled at regular 3-4 weekly intervals in the early part and as frequent as weekly towards delivery. Every such visit has a specific purpose. We discuss your symptoms, note some points on examination, review the investigations, order some tests and give you a general idea of how it's going medically.
It is a wonderful opportunity when you have 100% of the doctor's attention and can discuss any and everything about your pregnancy in detail. Subtle things are also noted by the doctor such as your general well-being, attitude, family support etc. which go a long way in fostering a good rapport based on trust and mutual understanding. In life-changing moments such as the birth of your baby, it is of utmost importance that you place your and your unborn baby's life in the hands of someone you trust to be competent and acting in good faith.
Every practitioner has a plan for scheduled visits in pregnancy and it may vary slightly from one to another, though generally the visits are 3-4 weekly in the first 6 months, 2 weekly from the 7th month onwards and weekly in the last 4 weeks prior to the expected date of delivery. Stick to the plan your doctor suggests as it is easier and safer, and there are less chances that something important may be missed.
2. Special visits, for any discomfort you may be feeling out of the ordinary
Even a simple cough and cold in pregnancy that doesn't settle in a day or two needs evaluation and merits a visit to the doctor rather than a text or phone call. Infections can be much more severe and complicate faster in pregnancy. If you feel pain or discomfort in the abdomen different from the one your doctor has reassured you about, then you should consult and visit them immediately.
Some of the other symptoms could include:
- swelling in one leg or severe swelling in both legs
- breathing difficulty
- suspected infection e.g. sore throat, burning in the urine, fever, boil or painful pus filled swelling
- excessive vomiting
- inability to keep food down
- vaginal bleeding or excess discharge
- decreased fetal movements
- any other symptom that is persistent or recurrent or worrisome for you
Ladies, do not shy away from dropping in to your doctor's clinic for a check-up /chat /reassurance.
Wishing you a safe and happy pregnancy!