You are pregnant and you know that you are supposed to attend antenatal care clinic (antenatal care is the care that is given to a woman during pregnancy, to promote the wellbeing of both the mother and the baby) but do you know when you should make your first visit to the clinic? Timing of your first antenatal care clinic is very important for your health and the health of your baby.
The big question is, how early should you start your antenatal care clinic attendance? The World Health Organisation(WHO) recommends that you should make your first visit between 8-12 weeks of your pregnancy. Why is it important for you to start your antenatal care clinic attendance this early?
First, for prevention of diseases such as tetanus, malaria and anemia. During your clinic visits, your health care provider will vaccinate you against tetanus, will give you Iron and Folic Acid (IFAS) tablets for growth and development of your unborn baby and to prevent anemia. Your health care provider will also issue you with a treated mosquito net or advise you to buy one and if you are in a malaria prone zone, you will get prophylaxis treatment of malaria; to prevent malaria. You will also be tested for HIV/AIDS to prevent Mother To Child Transmission of the disease, in case one is positive.
Second, for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions. You might have conditions such as diabetes, hypertension which might complicate your pregnancy. It is important for you to start your clinic attendance early for your health care provider to follow you up and prevent further complications on your health and the health of your precious unborn baby.
Third, for early detection of complications that arise due to the pregnancy. During a pregnancy, some complications may arise, for example, pregnancy induced hypertension. Early detection of these complications means early intervention thus saving your health and that of your baby.
Fourth, you will be educated on the danger signs during your pregnancy. On subsequent posts, we will closely look at danger signs in pregnancy. When you are educated on danger signs, you will have an emergency plan, you will know when to go back to your health care provider as fast as possible.
Moreover, your health care provider will help you calculate your Expected Date of Delivery(EDD) this date will help you plan for birth early. You will plan for the hospital of your choice that you would like to deliver in. For the public hospitals in Kenya, delivery is free of charges. However, if you choose a private hospital, you have to check a few things such as how much it will cost you and then start preparing on how you will meet the costs either by cash or through a health insurance plan. You will also plan for other things such as the means of transport to the health facility, the person that will accompany you on the due date, clothes for your baby, among other things. The old adage goes, failure to plan, is planning to fail; plan for the birth of that angel.
Finally, by the end of your pregnancy, you should have made at least four Antenatal care clinic visits and for you to be able to complete the four visits, you have to make the first visit early enough. However, if your health care provider identifies any risks or complications of your pregnancy, he/she might recommend more than four visits.
In conclusion, if you start attending antenatal care clinic early, you will enjoy the benefit of prevention of diseases such as tetanus, detection and treatment of complications such as pregnancy induced hypertension, treatment of pre-existing medical conditions, plan for delivery and finally, you will be able to complete the four recomennded clinic visits. Every day, women around the world die due to pregnancy related complications. Many of these complications can be prevented, detected early and treated by timely intervention during antenatal care visits which is one of the pillars of safe motherhood. You now know why you need to start your antenatal care clinics early, it’s time to put it into practice, make that first visit before the 12th week of your pregnancy.
Look out for the next post. We will focus on what you should expect on your first antenatal care clinic visit. From me, have a merry christmas.