Trekking to all those antenatal appointments can be a pain, but there’s good reason behind the lengthy schedule of tests, scans and general check-ups; not only do we get peace of mind that our babs is a-OK – but there’s also the assurance that anomalies can be detected early – and thus treated with a higher success rate.
According to the World Health Organisation, more visits to the doc, nurse or midwife can reduce the perinatal mortality rate significantly, and now it has officially revised its guidelines for pregnant women: visits to health professionals should happen at least eight times during gestation, with five of those appointments occurring in the final trimester*.
The WHO projects that “a minimum of eight contacts for antenatal care can reduce perinatal deaths by up to 8 per 1000 births”.
This is an important revision to the original minimum recommendation of 4 antenatal visits – given the stats; a release from the organisation revealed that more than 300,000 women suffered pregnancy-related deaths last year, along with a reported 2.6 million stillbirths, and 2.7 million infants dying within 28 days of birth.
“The new model increases maternal and foetal assessments to detect problems, improves communication between health providers and pregnant women, and increases the likelihood of positive pregnancy outcomes. It recommends pregnant women to have their first contact in the first 12 weeks’ gestation, with subsequent contacts taking place at 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38 and 40 weeks’ gestation,” the WHO news release reads.
Further guidelines include taking folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects, having blood sugar tested to rule out gestational diabetes – which can lead to premature labour, and undergoing nutritional/fitness counselling to ensure optimum maternal health and foetal development.
*Here in the UK, the NHS antenatal check-up schedule goes above the WHO recommendation, and tests like blood sugar are routinely offered – so preggie mums can rest assured they’re getting good care.