It is not always convenient to make time for what seems like a 2-minute visit with your medical practitioner when you are pregnant. But skipping appointments -- or shunning medical care completely -- could have grave consequences for you and your baby. Although some appointments may seem cursory, your medical provider is actually assessing a number of important factors during your visit.
Missing Health Problems That Affect You
Numerous medical conditions can affect a woman during pregnancy, and prenatal care enables your medical provider to work with you to manage these issues. General health problems -- such as asthma, heart or autoimmune disorders -- can complicate pregnancy for both the mother and baby. Other conditions are specific to pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes. As many as 27 percent of people with diabetes -- which affects approximately 8.3 percent of the population over age 20 -- do not realize they have it, according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Laboratory tests and ultrasounds along with your provider's evaluation of your uterine height, your weight and your blood pressure can help the doctor keep you healthy during pregnancy.
Missing Potential Complications for Your Baby
Skipping prenatal care can have potentially deadly consequences for your baby. A May 2002 study published in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" reported a nearly threefold increased risk of preterm delivery in women without prenatal care. Premature labor, premature rupture of membranes, intrauterine growth restriction and undiagnosed placenta previa -- a condition in which the placenta covers the opening between the uterus and vagina -- all contribute to increased prematurity rates. Preterm delivery accounts for more than 70 percent of infant deaths and health problems in infants without congenital birth defects, the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" article also notes.
Getting to Know Your Health Provider
You may not feel that you need to develop a personal relationship with your obstetrician. But getting to know the person who will deliver your baby -- and spending time talking to her beforehand about the type of birth you want to experience -- can make your labor less stressful. And getting to know you can help your provider recognize potential problems more easily than she might if she was not familiar with you.
Missing out on Counseling
Your medical practitioner provides valuable advice on staying healthy and giving your baby the best start in life. When you miss appointments, you do not get the support, encouragement and help you might need to quit smoking or alter other unhealthy habits. For example, an article published in the June 2004 issue of the "Journal of Econometrics" found that more pregnant women smoked during a 4-week bus strike that prevented many from traveling to prenatal visits. When you do not seek prenatal care, you also miss out on dietary advice that could help you keep your weight gain within normal limits and reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. Your medical provider will also talk about safety precautions, such as foods to avoid during pregnancy and which vitamins are best for you, based on your blood work.
- United States Department of Health and Human Services: Preventing Infant Mortality
- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: The Impact of Prenatal Care on Neonatal Deaths in the Presence and Absence of Antenatal High-risk Conditions
- Journal of Econometrics: The Benefits of Prenatal Care -- Evidence From the PAT Bus Strike
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Routine Prenatal Care and Testing
- Diabetes Care: Full Accounting of Diabetes and Pre-diabetes in the U.S. Population
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet
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