Maternity care refers to all care in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. It is provided right from the start of pregnancy until 6 months post-delivery.
Why it’s Done
All women need access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth. All births should be assisted by skilled health professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death for both the mother and the baby.
It ensures the overall wellness and safety of the mother as well as the fetus. It helps to identify high-risk patients beforehand, during the antenatal period so that specific treatment aiming at ailment can be initiated.
What you can expect
Ante-natal checkups & counselling– These appointments will allow your doctor to help both you and your baby stay healthy. Even if your pregnancy is going well and you’re feeling well, it’s important for you to attend your appointments so that any potential risks can be identified and prevented, or reduced. It’s also a great opportunity to ask any questions you have about your pregnancy such as what’s happening during each trimester, physical pregnancy symptoms and the birth itself. You may want to ask questions about caring for your baby after birth.
There will be a number of checks, scans, tests and discussions, such as:
- when the baby is due, what trimester you are in and what this means for you and your baby
- finding out about your medical history, general health and how any previous pregnancies were
- discussing any medication you are taking
- ensuring you’ve had a recent pap test
- making sure your mental health is OK, and supporting you if you have depression or anxiety
- checking your blood pressure and weight and testing your urine
- organising blood tests and screening
- providing advice on healthy eating and lifestyle changes
- feeling and measuring your tummy, and listening to the baby’s heartbeat
- asking you about your home environment, work and what support you have. If you are experiencing family violence, this is a good opportunity for you to discuss it
- checking about any physical symptoms that may be bothering you
- running through your birth plan with you
- talking about if something doesn’t go to plan during the birth
- finding out about antenatal classes
- advice about taking your baby home, feeding them and other care
If this is your first pregnancy and you’re not experiencing any problems, it’s likely you’ll have about 8 to 10 appointments. If this is not your first pregnancy, you’ll probably have 7-9 appointments if you had an uncomplicated pregnancy before.
The number of visits can change depending on whether your pregnancy becomes complicated. If it does, your doctor may need to increase the number of appointments and you may need more tests and scans.
High-risk pregnancy management – Sometimes a high-risk pregnancy is the result of a medical condition present before pregnancy. In other cases, a medical condition that develops during pregnancy for either you or your baby causes a pregnancy to become high risk.
Specific factors that might contribute to a high-risk pregnancy include:
Advanced maternal age:
Pregnancy risks are higher for mothers older than age 35.
Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs can put a pregnancy at risk.
Maternal health problems:
High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid disease, heart or blood disorders, poorly controlled asthma, and infections can increase pregnancy risks.
Various complications that develop during pregnancy can pose risks. Examples include an abnormal placenta position, fetal growth less than the 10th percentile for gestational age (fetal growth restriction) and rhesus (Rh) sensitization — a potentially serious condition that can occur when your blood group is Rh-negative and your baby’s blood group is Rh-positive.
Pregnancy risks are higher for women carrying twins or higher-order multiples.
A history of pregnancy-related hypertension disorders, such as preeclampsia, increases your risk of having this diagnosis during your next pregnancy. If you gave birth prematurely in your last pregnancy or you’ve had multiple premature births, you’re at increased risk of early delivery in your next pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider about your complete obstetric history.
- Specialized or targeted ultrasound- This type of fetal ultrasound — an imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of a baby in the uterus — targets a suspected problem, such as abnormal development.
- Prenatal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening– During this procedure, DNA from the mother and fetus is extracted from a maternal blood sample and the fetal DNA is screened for the increased chance of specific chromosome problems.
- Invasive genetic screening– Your health doctor might recommend amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). During amniocentesis, a sample of the fluid that surrounds and protects a baby during pregnancy (amniotic fluid) is withdrawn from the uterus. Typically done after week 15 of pregnancy, amniocentesis can identify certain genetic conditions as well as serious abnormalities of the brain or spinal cord (neural tube defects). During CVS, a sample of cells is removed from the placenta. Typically done between weeks 10 and 12 of pregnancy, CVS can identify certain genetic conditions.
- Ultrasound for cervical length-Your health care provider might use an ultrasound to measure the length of your cervix at prenatal appointments to determine if you’re at risk of preterm labour.
- Blood Testing – A routine blood test may also be diagnosed, as it can indicate that you have an underlying condition, such as gestational hypertension. This can place you and your child at risk and will require prenatal monitoring and treatment.Urinalysis – Conditions like preeclampsia can be diagnosed through this test, as it can detect excess protein in the u
- Urinalysis – Conditions like preeclampsia can be diagnosed through this test, as it can detect excess protein in the u
- Biophysical profile- This prenatal ultrasound is used to check on a baby’s well-being. It might involve only an ultrasound to evaluate fetal well-being or, depending on the results of the ultrasound, also fetal heart rate monitoring (nonstress test).Caesarean and vaginal delivery– Emergency and elective c-section are advised according to the indications by your doctor. A normal vaginal delivery or a vaginal assisted delivery can also be performed if there are no contraindication and the labour progresses smoothly. Painless delivery is another type of vaginal delivery in which a catheter is inserted in the back through which analgesic drugs are administered periodically, it makes the labour painless without affecting the baby.
- Caesarean and vaginal delivery– Emergency and elective c-section are advised according to the indications by your doctor. A normal vaginal delivery or a vaginal assisted delivery can also be performed if there are no contraindication and the labour progresses smoothly. Painless delivery is another type of vaginal delivery in which a catheter is inserted in the back through which analgesic drugs are administered periodically, it makes the labour painless without affecting the baby.
Postnatal preventive care– It is as important as prenatal care. The postnatal period lasts for 6-8 weeks after the baby is born. During this period a new mother goes through several physical and emotional changes while learning to care for her newborn. The most important elements of postnatal care are enough rest, good nutrition and vaginal care. At about six weeks post-birth, you may have a postnatal screening where your doctor will check for general physical and mental well-being.