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What to expect at your first pregnancy appointment

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Congratulations on your pregnancy! If you’re a first time mom-to-be, you’ll likely be filled of both questions and excitement. After you’ve celebrated your good news, your next to-do item is a trip to your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). It’s a good idea to meet with your provider regularly throughout your pregnancy, and it’s best if your first appointment takes place soon after you suspect you’re pregnant or take an at-home pregnancy test.

At your first appointment, your health care provider will confirm your pregnancy and then do an examination, much like your typical physical, to assess your general health. Your weight and blood pressure will be recorded, and your provider will check your heart, lungs, belly and breasts. You’ll also receive a pelvic exam, which includes a Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer and vaginal cultures to screen for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Your provider will then manually determine the size of your uterus and pelvis while simultaneously checking for any abnormalities of your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Everyday factors that could affect your pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or infections, should be identified right away and addressed immediately.

At your first visit, they will also go over your health history and your family’s medical history to determine if there are any risk factors that could affect your pregnancy. These risk factors could include your age, any existing or previous health conditions you may have and any genetic illnesses that may be present in your family. Your provider will also ask about any previous surgeries or exposure to contagious diseases, and they will ask about any medications—prescription or over-the-counter—that you take or have taken in the past. Continue Reading »

What to expect at an ultrasound appointment

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Most of us have seen the pictures that result: sepia or black and white, tiny fingers and curled legs—babies sure are fascinating to see through ultrasounds! Ultrasounds have become a typical part of modern pregnancy and prenatal care, and provide important insight into your baby’s development. Health care providers recommend that all pregnant women receive an ultrasound at least once, usually between the 18th and 20th week of pregnancy. If other medical issues are present, ultrasounds are sometimes needed at other points during pregnancy as well.

Early in pregnancy
If your provider did not confirm your pregnancy with a Doppler heartbeat monitor, your first ultrasound will confirm your baby’s heartbeat and that your pregnancy is uterine. If your pregnancy appears to be ectopic or tubular, it is best to find this out immediately so that your can discuss your and your baby’s health with your provider.

If you’ve never received an ultrasound before, be prepared to be a little chilly and a little slimey. A standard transabdominal ultrasound starts with a cool gel that is rubbed onto your lower belly (over your uterus). The ultrasound technician then rubs a transducer wand, which emits sound waves, over the area. The gel conducts the sound waves, which bounce off of the contours of your baby to produce the image you’ll see on-screen. That image, or sonogram, will be the first picture you have of your baby! It also allows the technician to take the baby’s measurements, to be compared at later ultrasounds. If it is very early in the pregnancy, the technician may perform a transvaginal (internal) ultrasound, which uses the transducer wand to scan the uterus from the vaginal cavity in order to detect the baby more clearly or earlier than would be possible with a transabdominal ultrasound.  Continue Reading »

Why you should consider giving birth in a hospital with a NICU

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The desire for a healthy baby is shared by all, whether you are a first-time parent or you’ve gone through the experience of having a baby before. Every parent has their worries about the birthing experience, which is one reason to consider choosing a hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

As with anything in life, sometimes babies and new moms need a little extra help, and the NICU at St. Elizabeth Hospital is equipped with a caring, experienced medical team that specializes in delivery-day hiccups.

Did you know that each year, 1 of every 8 infants born in the United States is born ahead of schedule? Preterm birth, or birth prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy, can sometimes mean that extra care is needed for mom or baby. In a hospital with a NICU, most preterm health issues can be dealt with close by, right after your baby is born. Preterm babies born at area hospitals are often transferred to St. Elizabeth Hospital’s NICU, making this a great local benefit for Fox Valley parents! We are lucky to live in an area with a number of great providers, including Mercy Medical Center and Calumet Medical Center, both of which St. Elizabeth Hospital is equipped to transport your baby to the NICU if need be. Continue Reading »

National Birth Defects Prevention Month

foodJanuary is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and there is a lot of information to be had if you are pregnant or know someone who is and want to decrease your chances of having a child with a birth defect.

According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network:

  • Every 4 ½ minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States
  • More than 120,000 babies born with a birth defect (approximately one in every 33 live births) are reported each year in the United States
  • Birth defects are the most common cause of death in infants and the second most common cause of death in children ages one to four years old
  • Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect. It occurs in one out of 100 births

Don’t let these statistics overwhelm you. The risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices before and during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant should:

  • Consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily
  • Manage chronic maternal illnesses such as diabetes, seizure disorders or phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • Talk to a health care provider about taking any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, as well as any supplements Continue Reading »

Miscarriages: Causes, symptoms and advice

tips and adviceAs someone who serves on the front line of face-to-face care with families suffering from a miscarriage or stillbirth, I see how devastating losing a pregnancy can be for mothers. Miscarriage is not a topic women want to think about or discuss, especially if they are in their first trimester of pregnancy. In this blog post, I will help break down what a miscarriage is, the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage and some advice and tips.

What causes a miscarriage?
Many miscarriages are caused by a chromosomal abnormality that make it impossible for the baby to develop. Other possible causes include drug and alcohol abuse, exposure to environmental toxins, infection, problem with the body’s immune response and hormonal abnormalities. Continue Reading »

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