If you just learned you’re pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, it’s imperative that you schedule a prenatal care appointment as soon as possible. Routine prenatal care can help protect both you and your baby and can be one of the best ways to determine your risk of a birth injury. Here’s how.

What is Prenatal Care?

Prenatal care helps women stay healthy throughout their pregnancy while reducing the risk of birth injuries and other birth defects. Your doctor will answer any questions you may have, identify and treat early warning indicators, establish a plan to manage your preexisting conditions, and educate you on the do’s and don’ts of a successful pregnancy.

Some women don’t realize how much of a role their diet, lifestyle, and current medications factor into their baby’s health. Your doctor can describe best practices for each, help you identify lifestyle risk factors, and develop a treatment plan to prevent birth injuries and birth defects. For example, your doctor may advise that you take folic acid, which can significantly reduce your baby’s risk of experiencing brain and spine injuries.

When women receive routine prenatal care, they are far less likely to experience injuries and other complications. Likewise, early warning signs (like high blood pressure) are more likely to be managed before the due date. At the same time, routine prenatal care is a significant predictor of healthy birth weight and expected delivery dates while reducing the likelihood of fetal alcohol syndrome, low lung capacity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Unfortunately, many women in Georgia don’t have access to prenatal care. As a result, Georgia has the highest rate of birth injuries of any state in the U.S.

Why Don’t Georgia Women Get Prenatal Care?

Georgia has two major issues when it comes to women’s healthcare. First, there aren’t enough medical offices in the state. More than 50% of all Georgia counties do not have an OBGYN office. Some counties have no medical offices whatsoever. This, combined with a weak public transportation system, means that prenatal care, and even routine well-woman exams, are less accessible to low-income and minority families, which increases the risk of birth injuries and other poor pregnancy outcomes.

The second issue is that minority women, especially young black women, who do attend prenatal care often perceive poor treatment from medical staff, difficulty scheduling appointments, or rushed examinations. Additionally, even when minority women perceive successful prenatal appointments, the doctor may be providing advice that is not relevant to their situation. That’s because some doctors don’t account for physical differences in ethnicities and instead use a universal treatment plan.

Make no mistake; prenatal care is vital to your health and the health of your baby. When looking for a doctor, find one that will account for your background and medical history when making a treatment plan.

How Often Should I Attend Prenatal Care?

If you think you’re pregnant, you should schedule a prenatal appointment as soon as possible. Again, starting treatment early in your pregnancy gives you the best chance of identifying and mitigating potential risk factors. If you are not yet pregnant but are planning to be, you may want to schedule a preconception appointment to identify risk factors and start medications that could make the process easier.

Once you start prenatal care, consistency is key. Each appointment tells the doctor a little more about how your pregnancy is progressing and what it means for your overall health. As you get closer to the due date, you should expect more appointments. Here’s what a typical prenatal care schedule looks like:

  • First Trimester: Monthly appointments

  • Second Trimester: Bimonthly appointments

  • Third Trimester: Weekly appointments

What If Prenatal Care Discovers High-Risk Factors?

If your doctor determines that you and your baby are at high risk for a birth injury or a birth defect, don’t panic. The purpose of prenatal care is to reduce those risks as much as possible so you can have a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby. If your doctor determines that you are at higher risk, follow their treatment plan and attend your appointments as scheduled.

If your baby experiences a birth injury in the delivery room, you can assure yourself that you followed all the right steps and did everything you could to mitigate risk. At that point, it may be more likely that the injury was caused by medical negligence, not anything that you could have prevented.

If your child was diagnosed with a birth injury, we are here for you. To schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Atlanta medical malpractice attorney from The Mabrey Firm, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (404) 841-4991 or send us an email.

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