While pregnancy is a natural process and not an illness, regular medical check-ups are important.
Whether you choose to see your doctor throughout your pregnancy, or prefer to see a private midwife, only going to a doctor early and then again later in pregnancy, you will need to see a practitioner regularly, and you will be offered a host of tests.
Here’s what to expect:
Put these check-ups in your calendar
It’s important to get regular antenatal care. According to the policies adopted by the South African Department of Health (based on recommendations from the World Health Organization), if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you should visit your practitioner or clinic:
- Towards the end of the first trimester
- At 20, 26, 30 and 34 weeks
- Thereafter, every two weeks
As you get closer to your due date, your caregiver may want to see you more often, and extra visits may be scheduled for pregnancies that need special care (e.g. moms-to-be with a medical condition). If you experience any serious symptoms, like vaginal bleeding, see your doctor immediately.
Dentist visits during pregnancy
Pregnancy’s impact on your teeth and gums can be problematic. It’s not unusual to get toothache thanks to sensitivity from puffy gums and sinus congestion from swollen membranes, which puts pressure on nerve pathways.
It’s generally safe to visit a dentist or oral hygienist when pregnant, but be sure to you mention your pregnancy at every visit so that x-rays, medication, and things like anaesthetic injections can be adjusted accordingly.
Types of tests
Before falling pregnant, it is a good idea to have a blood test to determine whether or not you have antibodies to rubella (German measles). If not, you will be offered a vaccine to lessen your chances of contracting the disease. Rubella can cause miscarriage, preterm birth, or stillbirth, as well as birth defects if Baby is infected while in the womb.
During pregnancy, there are a number of tests which can be done at different stages. Some are routine, some need your permission, and some are only done if there is a potential problem. Private sector medical facilities usually offer more routine tests than public health facilities.
Common tests include:
- Regular blood pressure tests
- Regular urine tests to check for bladder or kidney infections, preeclampsia and other disorders
- A blood test at the first consultation to check for anaemia
- A blood test to check your blood group and Rhesus factor (positive or negative)
- A blood test to check your HIV status, as well as any other sexually transmitted diseases
A blood test called the Triple Test done at 12–16 weeks to screen for Down syndrome and other genetic conditions