Pregnancy is a physiologic state that occurs in a female body where the development of a fetus occurs. During this phase of a woman’s life, she undergoes several transformations that ensure the survival and growth of the new life forming inside her womb.
One of the World Health Organization’s thrusts is to focus on providing a positive experience for the pregnant woman who will undergo a healthy transition into motherhood. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the many changes that she will undergo and know how to assess these developments along the different stages of gestation adequately.
It is essential to note that two lives are always at stake when a mother goes through pregnancy- hers and the baby’s. Hence, regular check-ups and close monitoring are required to ensure the health and safety of both mother and child.
The Female Body Undergoes Different Changes During Pregnancy
In the normal non-pregnant state, there exists a cyclic equilibrium between the two primary hormones, estrogen and progesterone. One of the first changes is when these substances fluctuate and exponentially increase due to excess production of estrogen by the placenta and secretion of progesterone by the corpus luteum of the ovary. The high concentration of these hormones then generates downward effects on the other organ systems. Other hormones that may also rise are human placental lactogen, prolactin, and cortisol.
In response to the altered concentration of hormones, adaptations also occur in other organs such as those in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Progesterone induces an overall increase in maternal cardiac output by decreasing vascular resistance. Another endocrine axis affected is the renin-angiotensin system, which results in increased total blood volume via enhanced retention of salt and water. Lastly, there exists a high demand for oxygen due to a general increase in metabolism.
The Prenatal Check-up and Its Importance
Pregnant individuals must undergo regular prenatal consultations to ensure optimum health for both the mother and the baby. The World Health Organization has established guidelines to follow to give women a positive pregnancy experience.1
Worldwide, there remains an unacceptably high rate of pregnancy-related illnesses. However, with universal access to comprehensive prenatal care, it is hoped that the incidence of these diseases may be prevented. Availing regular consultations enables women to access information on the prevention of common physiological concerns and recommendations on assessments, counseling, and referrals for more serious problems.1
What specific parameters do doctors check during the prenatal period?
During pregnancy, obstetricians may need to monitor various vital signs of both the mother and the baby. At each consultation, maternal blood pressure is assessed together with a measurement of the symphysis-fundal height, reflecting fetal growth.
The mother may be asked to submit herself for blood collection to obtain a complete blood count. It determines the presence of anemia, a condition where there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells, or a reduction in the concentration of the protein hemoglobin. Another important determination is the blood glucose level, high values that may indicate gestational diabetes mellitus.
A urine sample is also possible collected to identify whether there is a urinary tract infection or asymptomatic bacteriuria, a condition where bacterial colonization of urine occurs without patient symptoms.
Before reaching 24 weeks of gestation, an ultrasound scan is recommended to estimate the gestational age, detect the presence of fetal anomalies, and improve overall pregnancy experience.
Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring is Necessary
The fetal heart rate averages between 110 and 160 beats per minute and may vary in response to changing conditions in the mother’s uterus. Abnormalities in the baby’s heart rate and rhythm may indicate inadequate oxygenation or other problems.3
Fetal heart rate may be monitored in two ways: internal and external.3 The less popular method is internal fetal heart monitoring, which is quite invasive since it entails access to the amniotic sac and an electrode’s placement onto the baby’s scalp. The more widely used method is external fetal heart monitoring, which utilizes devices to listen to the baby’s heartbeat through the mother’s abdomen. It is non-invasive, and therefore it poses less risk to both the fetus and the obstetric patient.
Mothers with concomitant illnesses like diabetes or hypertension may be considered high-risk populations, where more frequent monitoring is required. Other situations that may necessitate closer assessment of the fetal heart include fetal growth retardation and preterm labor medications intake.
The Fetal Doppler is a Valuable Tool
One device that may be of great utility to the obstetrician during this close monitoring phase is the fetal doppler. A doppler device is an indispensable tool in evaluating the fetal heartbeat, which may be appreciable in as early as 8-12 weeks of gestation. This is important because it enables the physician to monitor the baby’s heart rate at an earlier time than would be possible if another tool like a stethoscope were used.3 Also, the fetal doppler provides an external monitoring system that is non-invasive and thereby more convenient and poses less risk to both the parent and the child.
Contrary to popular beliefs, a fetal doppler is not only accessible in a clinic. Rather, it is also a must have tool for expecting moms to have at home. Wellue’s BabyTone Fetal Heart Monitor gets the job done. With a rating of 4.8 on Trustpilot, this nifty gadget detects and records a baby’s heart rate in both digit and waveform and displays it on the device as well as an application.
The wonderful thing about it is that moms with more than 12 weeks of pregnancy can say goodbye to the traditional pen and paper recording of their baby’s data. Wellue’s BabyTone Fetal Heart Monitor saves and records the child’s historical data such as their heartbeat rate, heartbeat sounds, kicks, and other notes surrounding the pregnancy. All that needs to be done and connect the device to the free app that is suited for it, and the rest is history.
Pregnancy is a beautiful and rewarding period of womanhood that culminates in bringing forth new life. Aside from the services that healthcare professionals can provide, patients and their carers must also be empowered to ensure the health of the mother and her child. So, when choosing anything to be used during the pregnancy, it is essential to purchasing it from a well-respected and loved brand like Wellue.
- New guidelines on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience. World Health Organization. Published online December 5, 2017. doi:/entity/reproductive health/news/antenatal-care/en/index.html
- Otundo Richard M. WHO Recommendations on Antenatal Care for a Positive Pregnancy Experience in Kenya. SSRN Electronic Journal. Published online 2019. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3449460
- Fetal Heart Monitoring. Published 2020. Accessed November 4, 2020. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/fetal-heart-monitoring