HEALTH

A General Look At What Happens At The Doctors Throughout Pregnancy

Antenatal appointments, scans, and how to plan for baby's arrival.

14/03/2017 12:08 PM AEDT | Updated 15/03/2017 12:42 PM AEDT
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You're pregnant -- congratulations! Though, what now?

It's likely that your GP will refer you to an obstetrician, or you'll find out the closest public hospital to you in which you'll plan on having your baby. From there you'll have various appointments along the way to monitor the baby's progress but also your own health.

A new study has been released which reveals how women rate their maternity care in public hospitals. The survey covers various points of pregnancy and highlights happenings throughout the journey that soon-to-be mothers might not be aware of, especially if it's their first baby.

Here, what you can expect throughout your pregnancy in terms of meeting with your doctors or local hospital, and also what happens when your baby is on the way.

Antenatal appointments

"During your pregnancy, it's important to go to regular antenatal (meaning 'before the birth') appointments with your midwife or doctor," Dr Jean-Frederic Levesque, Chief Executive for the Bureau of Health Information told The Huffington Post Australia.

At your antenatal appointments, your midwife or doctor should talk to you about how you're feeling emotionally.

"These are for providing information and checking your health and the health of your developing baby. The earlier your pregnancy is assessed by a midwife or doctor the better. In some Australian states, including NSW, it's recommended that you have your first antenatal appointment before the 14th week of your pregnancy," Dr Levesque said.

According to the survey, only four in 10 women said their first appointment occurred by the recommended time.

"At your antenatal appointments, your midwife or doctor should talk to you about how you're feeling emotionally, the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle over the course of your pregnancy -- for both you and your baby -- and answer any questions you might have. Antenatal screening tests also take place during these appointments," Dr Levesque said.

In good news, more than nine in 10 women (91 percent) surveyed were asked how they were feeling emotionally during pregnancy and were given information about safe sleeping for their baby. However, only 60 percent said their midwife or doctor completely discussed their worries or fears with them. If you're not sure, ask your midwife or doctor about the risks of consuming alcohol, exposure to tobacco smoke and healthy weight gain as part of antenatal care.

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Having ultrasounds on the baby will be part of your pre-natal care.


Scans

When it comes to the amount of scans you'll have during pregnancy, this varies -- so ask your doctor instead of comparing to friends.

"There are a number of scans and screening tests available to women choosing to have their baby in both the public and private health systems," Dr Levesque said.

"The type, frequency and timings of these can vary depending on your personal circumstance, your health and the health of your developing baby. Your doctor or midwife can provide information around what's recommended during your first antenatal appointment."

Birth of the baby

"During your pregnancy, it's important to discuss with your doctor or midwife what to expect at the time of labour and birth. This might include pain relief options, choosing a comfortable position for the birth, the risks of complications, as well as what to expect after the baby is born," Dr Levesque said.

"These conversations are important so that you are informed and feel engaged and supported throughout the entire maternity care journey -- from pregnancy, to labour and birth, through to postnatal care in the hospital and follow-up care at home -- to help set you and your family on a life course that is long and healthy."

The survey showed that more than two thirds of women felt involved in decisions during labour and birth and about leaving hospital, however 13 percent said the length of their hospital stay was too short.

"Many women may be concerned about pain during labour and birth. Pain relief options vary and can be a highly personal decision for some women, so it's best to discuss these options with your doctor or midwife and plan ahead of time," Dr Levesque said.

Beyond pain relief, another aspect to consider is the actual position. Surprisingly, this is often up to the patient, not the doctor.

"Your doctor or midwife may recommend some potentially comfortable positions, however if it is safe to do so (i.e. there are no health risks to you or your baby) and you are physically able to, choosing the most comfortable position should largely be your decision."

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Some women choose to birth their babies in water.

"It is also important to consider that where you choose to have your baby may impact your birthing position. For example, some older hospitals may not have the appropriate facilities available to be able to offer you a bath during labour, although newer hospitals should," Dr Levesque said.

The majority of women surveyed (69 percent) said they were able to move around and choose the most comfortable position, and among women for whom it was clinically appropriate, about half were offered the option of being in a bath during labour.

Taking baby home

"After leaving the hospital with your baby all women should receive midwifery support at home. Follow-up care is important as it provides essential services to you as a new mother and your family," Dr Levesque said.

In NSW, health policy states this should be for at least two weeks after your baby is born. This can be provided in various ways.

76 percent of women surveyed said this was provided by a midwife at home, 24 percent was provided by a nurse at home and 9 percent was provided by a midwife/nurse at a clinic.

The report conducted by the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) summarises survey results from around one in 20 women who had a baby in a NSW public hospital in 2015.

We want to hear about your experiences, and about what you want to read when it comes to women's health. Let us know by emailing notwowomen@huffingtonpost.com.au

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