Prenatal care services are important to help keep women and their babies healthy. They can help detect health problems early and get them treated, so they don’t get worse. They also help prevent complications from occurring during labor and delivery. Prenatal care is offered by doctors and midwives who specialize in obstetrics. Many health insurance plans cover these services. Public programs, such as Medicaid in the United States and Canada, can also cover them.
A woman should start getting prenatal care as soon as she knows she is pregnant. This can be done in-person with a doctor or with a midwife. A typical prenatal care visit includes an examination, testing, and education about pregnancy and childbirth. During the examination, a doctor or midwife will check for signs of health problems, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They will also measure the uterus and the baby’s size. They will give the woman a schedule of visits to come to the clinic during the pregnancy.
These visits will depend on the mother’s health and the stage of her pregnancy. During the first trimester, the visits are usually less frequent. During the second and third trimester, the visits will be more frequent as the due date approaches. These visits are important because they can help detect problems, such as a low birth weight or a pregnancy that is at risk for a C-section. The provider will also educate the mom-to-be about how to take care of herself and her baby.
Women who are at risk for complications can have special tests to make sure their baby is growing well. This may include an ultrasound, blood work, or urine tests. These tests can also detect if the woman has been exposed to infections, such as hepatitis B, syphilis, or chlamydia. They can also check for fetal genetic defects, such as Down syndrome.
Some states are working to make it easier for pregnant women to get the prenatal care they need. They have created billing codes and enhanced reimbursements to encourage group prenatal care. One program, called CenteringPregnancy, has worked with many state Medicaid programs to establish these billing codes and to recommend that they be used. However, these billing codes and enhancements do not always get activated or are not being used effectively.
Some studies show that group prenatal care can be as effective as individual prenatal care, and it is more affordable. Some of the benefits of this type of care include increased patient satisfaction, better knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth, more prepared patients for labor and delivery, higher rates of breastfeeding initiation, and lower emergency department visits during the third trimester. In addition, studies suggest that adolescent group prenatal care may be particularly helpful to this population.