Antenatal or prenatal is derived from two Latin words ‘Ante’ meaning ‘Before’ and ‘Natalis’ which means ‘I am born’. Together, the words mean ‘before I am born’.
Originating from Europe, particularly United Kingdom, this form of preventive or monitoring health care dates back to the 20th century.
Various screening and investigative modalities have been employed overtime; some abolished, others improved, to ensure safe delivery of fetuses.
The rationale behind this type of care is precise, anticipatory and above all, preventive.
As a fetus grows in the womb, it is vulnerable and its growth and development can be tampered with.
Antenatal care is when and where these abnormalities are picked up while treatment options are put into consideration.
A number of diseases that affect babies in the womb can lead to the following;
- Bone deformities
- Immaturity of organs
- Abnormal sizes (Too big or too small)
- Abnormalities of organs
- Death e.t.c
As a result, in antenatal care, a good number of these diseases are either diagnosed, suspected or treated.
Maternal health status and fetal health status are in direct proportionality. Chronic or acute health conditions of mother impacts baby gravely.
Some maternal health conditions do not completely favour the period of pregnancy. Others tend to outrightly prevent it from happening or progressing. They include;
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Heart Diseases
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Reproductive organ tumours
- Infections such as HIV, Viral Hepatitis e.t.c
The Antenatal Care (ANC)
ANC is not a compulsory health care activity for pregnant women although it is massively encouraged/advised.
In ANC, women are booked for visits at special intervals, depending on how old the pregnancy is;
- Monthly from 1st week-28th week
- 2-weekly from 28th week-37th week
- Weekly from 37th week-delivery
Therefore, there exists constant and variable investigations throughout pregnancy which fall on specific periods.
These investigations are either invasive or non-invasive. They are however targeted at monitoring body parameters altered by pregnancy. They are;
- Height of the mother
- Weight of the mother
- Maternal hormones
- Blood profiling (PCV, BP, MP test, RVS, Hb tests e.t.c)
- Scanning of Baby (USS)
All of these tests give the caregiver an idea of the state of the pregnancy and an index for suspicion or simply continue routine monitoring.
In Nigeria, healthcare providers face a huge challenge, there’s a generally poor health-seeking culture (HSC) and it seems unaffected by pregnancy
Women present as late as 36 weeks into pregnancy sighting husband order and/or financial concerns as the reason(s) for delay.
Furthermore, cultural dispositions dictate pregnancy care for some and they only go to hospitals for care of complications.
ANC is encouraged by W.H.O, she prescribes at least 8 visits before delivery.
Pregnant women are encouraged to insist on seeking this care with diligence and rigour.
The growing baby has the right to good health just as much as the mother. Pregnancies should be planned between intending couples.