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  • 'DIY Pregnancy': What The New Normal For Prenatal Checkups Can Look Like

    Pregnant women need to be more involved in their prenatal care moving forward.
    by Rachel Perez .
'DIY Pregnancy': What The New Normal For Prenatal Checkups Can Look Like
PHOTO BY iStock
  • No one wants to go to a hospital for fear of being exposed to COVID-19. Hopefully, you or a family member do not have to go to one. For preggos, however, seeing the doctor is a must for prenatal checkup. So what now in the time of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)?

    Prenatal visits are vital to the health of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. How often you go for prenatal visits depends on your pregnancy, how far along are you, and if you have, or are at risk for, complications. With the ongoing pandemic, however, telemedicine, video calls, or messaging apps may serve as the new normal even after ECQ is lifted.

    Here's what may change and some information that may help calm your nerves.

    You need at least a minimum of eight prenatal visits

    Before COVID-19, prenatal checkups were done monthly and becomes more frequent when you're nearing your due date. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended four prenatal visits at least. But, in 2016, it was changed to a minimum of eight visits. Pregnant women should seek prenatal care first within Week 1 to Week 12 of their pregnancy. After that, doctors need to see you physically for consultations on Weeks 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38, and 40.

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    High-risk pregnant patients, for instance, may need more checkups. Check with your doctor when you need to go out for a visit and when you can just discuss things via chat or meet virtually. If you need to go out for a prenatal checkup, take extra precautions.

    Having fewer prenatal visits, however, entails discipline. You have to follow your doctor's orders strictly, especially if you don't want to be heading out more often. This includes watching what you eat, taking your prenatal vitamins, and keeping active. Some pregnant women also use pregnancy apps to help them monitor themselves as well.

    You need at least four ultrasound scans

    There was a time when pregnant women had successful pregnancies even without ultrasounds. Still, it has been a vital tool in ensuring the baby's health in the womb since it was invented.

    In its revised guidelines due to the pandemic, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the first ultrasound between Week 11 to Week 13 of the pregnancy, at Week 20 for the essential congenital anomaly scan (CAS), and then at Weeks 32 and 36.

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    It is ideal to schedule ultrasounds together with regular prenatal visits and essentials tests, such as glucose tolerance test (GTT), to reduce the need for pregnant women to go out.

    You may need to invest in a few medical devices

    New prenatal care ACOG recomendations also suggests that follow-ups for monitoring diabetes control, hypertension, mood disorders, and other conditions be done remotely. It may seem like you're having a DIY pregnancy, sure, but with your doctor's guidance and instruction. For online prenatal visits to be more productive, you may need to invest in a weighing scale, stethoscope, blood pressure monitor, fetal doppler, or insulin strips.

    But these devices don't always come cheap, and learning how to use them takes time. Some women will find this empowering, while others may doubt their skills. If you think your partner is better at it than you, don't hesitate to delegate.

    You need to be more discerning about information

    "Just because you are talking to your doctor on the internet doesn't mean the internet is your doctor," Dr. Erica Cahill, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and complex family planning at Stanford University, stressed in The New York Times. Medical misinformation and self-medication are dangerous, and one reason more doctors prefer messaging and chat channels.

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    There are trusty institutions that offer free access to webinars and other guidance on various platforms such as e-mail, podcasts, video conference. Still, it's best to communicate with YOUR doctor, who has seen you personally and will know your medical history when a need for personal visits arises.

    If you feel like you need to venture into the world wide web, a good gauge would be a link your doctor recommends.

    You may need to be more pro-active about your pregnancy

    In the absence of medical monitoring devices at home, preggos need to be more aware of their condition. Your observation and feedback — and actually voicing them out — is crucial. It's not the time t0 second-guess something when you could easily confirm it with your doctor. That's one advantage of telemedicine, according to the WHO. Patients are also encouraged to speak up more about symptoms, which could lead to early detection of a medical issue.

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    Still, you need to be respectful of your doctor's time. Having her mobile number doesn't mean you're free to ask her a non-emergency message at 3 a.m. Discuss with your doctor what's an emergency and what's not.

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