The antenatal care is care given by health professional or specialist during the course of pregnancy to childbirth. It is a screening program with the main objective of ensuring the wellbeing of the fetus as well as the pregnant mother. It intents to detect complications early, provide health education and implements preventive intervention
The aims of antenatal care are to:
- provide high-quality information that can be easily understood in the current climate of ethnic and social diversity
- provide an informed choice about the pathways of antenatal care
- identify and screen for maternal complications
- identify and screen for fetal complications
- assess maternal and fetal wellbeing throughout pregnancy
- provide advice and education on the normal symptoms of pregnancy.
When to start antenatal care
The first antenatal visit should be as soon as the urine pregnancy test is positive. This allows the doctor to confirm the pregnancy, identify the number of pregnancy, location and detect any other associated cyst. It also provides opportunity to assess and screen the pregnant mother for pregnancy risk. Appropriate measures including further assessment, referral, investigations and advice can then be instituted.
The fetal growth is monitor at a regular interval for any deviation from the allowable parameters. The mother also receives attention for any troublesome symptoms of pregnancy and subject to further investigation if the need arises.
In Malaysia, the antenatal visit is scheduled to monthly until 28 weeks gestation, followed by fortnightly until 36 weeks. The subsequent visit is weekly until delivery.
The WHO has introduced an alternative model called the “focused antenatal care” over the former traditional schedule. This schedule has not been taken up yet in Malaysia.
A team approach, involving the pregnant mother, her partner and the obstetrician is essential to ensure an optimal pregnancy outcome. An early and regular antenatal care helps to reduce the risks and complications associated with pregnancy.