Prenatal Care, Labor and Delivery, and Postpartum Care
Pregnancy is an exciting time of major change. From the very start, your growing baby changes your body and the way you live your daily life. The best way to approach pregnancy and childbirth is to be informed. As soon as you know you are pregnant, call your health care provider to schedule an appointment so you can start prenatal care right away. You will be giving your baby a healthy start in life.
Prenatal care includes regular health care visits and childbirth education. Prenatal visits allow your health care provider to monitor your health as well as that of your growing baby. You can discuss any questions or concerns you may have and learn more about your pregnancy. You will have regular appointments throughout your pregnancy.
Your first or second prenatal visit will be one of your longest. This visit will include a detailed health history, a physical exam, lab tests, and calculation of your due date.
Your health care provider will ask about your health history, including your previous pregnancies, surgical procedures, medical problems, and medications you may be taking. Be prepared to answer questions about your family’s and the baby’s father’s health as well.
After your health history is obtained, your height, weight, and blood pressure will be measured. You will have a complete physical exam with blood and urine tests and a pelvic exam. You also may have cervical cancer screening.
Your Due Date
The day your baby is due is called the estimated date of delivery (EDD) or the “due date.” Although few women give birth on their exact due dates, the EDD is useful for many reasons. It is used as a guide for checking the baby’s growth and the progress of your pregnancy. Your due date also affects the timing of prenatal tests.
Your due date is usually calculated from the first day of your most recent menstrual period, often called your last menstrual period by health care providers. You may notice that, according to this method, your last menstrual period is included even though your baby was not conceived yet. Pregnancy is assumed to occur 2 weeks after your menstrual period. Therefore, an extra 2 weeks is counted at the beginning of your pregnancy, even though you are not actually pregnant (see Box “Estimating Your Due Date”).
A normal, full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period. The 40 weeks of pregnancy are divided into three trimesters. Each trimester lasts about 12–13 weeks (or about 3 months):
- 1st trimester: 0 –13 weeks (Months 1–3)
- 2nd trimester: 14 –27 weeks (Months 4 –7)
- 3rd trimester: 28 – 40 weeks (Months 7–9)
Many women take childbirth preparation classes to learn ways of coping with pain and reducing the discomfort associated with labor and delivery. There are a few different methods of childbirth preparation available, such as Lamaze and Bradley, but all seek to relieve discomfort through education, support, relaxation, paced breathing, and touch. Your health care provider can provide information about preparation classes offered at your hospital or birthing center.