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Prenatal Care

Giving birth is a momentous event, and expert care through every pregnancy stage is crucial to ensuring that you and your child have a healthy outcome. At the Women & Infants Center, our team is composed of doctors from Washington University School of Medicine. These top-ranked physicians guide your medical care while providing plenty of opportunity for family involvement.

A woman receives an ultrasound test as part of her prenatal care

Importance of Prenatal Care

Prenatal care is medical care for you and your baby while you are pregnant. Our obstetrician-gynecologists (OBGYNs) track the progress of your pregnancy and monitor you and your baby’s health. Essential for avoiding pregnancy complications, prenatal care allows doctors to spot medical conditions early, when they are most treatable.

Although pregnancy can be an exciting time, it’s also a time when you experience major changes in your body as your baby grows. Regularly meeting with your Women & Infants Center team gives you the chance to ask questions, discuss concerns and get medically sound advice.

Prenatal Services at the Women & Infants Center

Our prenatal team’s highest priority is the health of you and your child and the best possible childbirth experience. We provide the full range of prenatal care for all stages of pregnancy, beginning when you first suspect you’re pregnant.

Preconception Planning

Prenatal care can begin even before you become pregnant. Before trying to conceive, you can take steps to ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy and baby, such as:

  • Taking prenatal vitamins, ideally two months before you become pregnant
  • Quitting smoking, which can cause prematurity and low birth weight
  • Reviewing your family history to check for inherited disorders or other considerations when planning a family

Our preconception checklist gives you the full list of what you can do to prepare for pregnancy. You can also discuss any concerns or questions you have about becoming pregnant with your gynecologist.

What to expect at your first appointment

At the initial visit, you and your doctor will go over your medical history to help your OBGYN understand your current health condition. Your doctor will also assess if there are any risk factors that would affect you or your baby during pregnancy. Additionally, you’ll receive a:

  • Physical evaluation, which may include a pelvic exam
  • Blood work, to identify your blood type, screen for infections and identify any possible health problems
  • Urine testing for urinary tract infections
  • Due date, which your doctor calculates based on your last reported menstrual cycle or an ultrasound

Ongoing prenatal appointments

Over the course of your pregnancy, you will regularly meet with your OBGYN – usually once a month and then more frequently toward the end of your pregnancy. (Your doctor will provide the schedule of appointments.) These visits are typically shorter than the first visit and involve:

  • Measuring your abdomen to check on your baby’s growth
  • Listening to your baby’s heart rate
  • Taking your blood pressure
  • Monitoring your weight gain

At different points during your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend additional tests such as ultrasound and genetics tests. These provide detailed information about you and your baby’s health.

Specialized ultrasounds

In addition to receiving detailed care from our doctors, our team also provides extra attention when it comes to performing ultrasound tests. An ultrasound, or sonogram, uses sound waves to create visual images of your baby, placenta and uterus. During this test, the technician takes measurements of your baby’s organs and records other vital information to evaluate your child’s development and detect health problems.

With a full-service ultrasound suite dedicated to obstetrics and gynecology, our technicians are entirely focused on performing pregnancy ultrasounds. Once performed, ultrasounds are interpreted by the maternal-fetal medicine team, who are experts in evaluating fetal development.

Care for high-risk pregnancies

Certain factors during conception (like having a pre-existing health condition) or conditions that develop during pregnancy can increase you or your baby’s risk of health problems. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you may need to see our maternal-fetal medicine specialists. These OBGYNs provide expert care for women with pregnancy complications.

Collaborative Care

Every pregnancy is different, and that’s why our OBGYNs take the time to understand your needs and concerns. In pregnancy and childbirth, you may have multiple treatment options from prenatal tests to pain management during labor and delivery. We encourage you and your family to actively participate in the decision-making process with your care team, with safety as the priority.

You and your OBGYN will work together to make healthcare decisions. Your doctor will present and discuss the “why” behind the best options for your particular situation. The result is a path forward that you and your family can feel good about.

OBGYN Care During Prenatal Visits & Childbirth

At the Women & Infants Center, Washington University physicians share on-call duty at the hospital. When doctors are on call, caring for hospitalized patients is their sole focus. That means your doctor won’t need to cancel or reschedule your office visit to take care of patients at the hospital.

Throughout the course of your pregnancy, you and your family will meet with all the doctors on the team. That way, you’re familiar with the on-call doctor for labor and delivery care when your special day comes.

Leaders in Prenatal Care

As teaching faculty at Washington University School of Medicine, our OBGYNs not only remain current on the best medical practices, but help develop it as well. Through our obstetrics and gynecology research programs, we discover better ways to approach women’s health:

  • We are one of only five March of Dimes Prematurity Research Centers in the nation. Through partnership with the other four academic medical centers, our doctors are working to determine what causes premature labor to find ways to prevent premature birth.
  • Our research also addresses issues such as how Zika virus affects pregnancy.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with an OBGYN at the Women & Infants Center, call 855.925.0631.