“Prenatal care” is often associated with the medical care needed to promote the health of the unborn baby. Prenatal care often includes the pregnant person taking needed dietary supplements, attending regular doctor visits, and undergoing ultrasounds and other routine testing and evaluations to ensure the baby is developing and growing appropriately. What is equally as important, but not discussed as often, is supporting the pregnant person’s health during pregnancy.
Even the most normal pregnancy has a major impact on the pregnant person’s overall health. The very process of carrying and growing a baby affects every major body function including the respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems of the pregnant person. Apart from the obvious external signs of a growing belly and breasts, below are just a few of the routine body stresses experienced during pregnancy:
- Increased respiratory rate and decreased lung capacity
- Increased cardiac output and elevated heart rate
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Increased stress on the kidneys
- Musculoskeletal stress and pain
- Weight gain and associated water retention
There are some serious complications that can develop due to the additional stresses on the body caused by pregnancy including low red blood cell count or anemia, urinary tract infections, high blood pressure, heart disease, preeclampsia, and diabetes. These conditions, among others, can adversely impact the pregnant person resulting in complications that may even lead to death.
While some complications begin at or after the start of pregnancy, those who have pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, must be monitored carefully throughout the pregnancy for any changes. In short, every pregnant person’s health should be at the forefront of the provider’s care approach.
Complacency in pregnancy by the patient or doctor is particularly dangerous. Patients may not report their symptoms to the doctor believing they are just “normal” pregnancy symptoms and therefore do not get the care needed. Or a provider’s own medical bias may lead to the doctor failing to appreciate and provide treatment for a serious condition.
While a patient cannot control the provider’s care, the patient can control their involvement in the process. Therefore, it is imperative that pregnant persons be proactive during pregnancy to help protect themselves as well as their unborn babies. Some of the steps one can take include:
- Seeking care as soon as possible, even before a planned pregnancy, to identify and discuss any health issues that may increase the risk of complications and how to best mitigate them.
- Promptly reporting any concerning changes to one’s body or health condition during pregnancy to the doctor.
- Staying informed by asking questions about the prenatal care process and its effect on one’s body and understanding the answers. If one does not get an answer or does not understand an answer, ask again. And again, if needed.
If you know someone that has suffered because of a provider’s failure to identify a health issue during pregnancy, we may be able to help. Let’s talk.