The first 1 000 days – from conception to the age of two – are the most important to ensure a child’s best growth and development.
Midwives – trained health professionals who help pregnant women and assist during labour, delivery and after the baby’s birth – are available at public hospitals to assist expectant mothers.
“As midwives, we do regular check-ups, such as urine, blood pressure and infection tests,” says Miriam Javan, a midwife at Kraaifontein Hospital in the Western Cape.
“We conduct health education and inform expectant mothers about the dangers of smoking and substance and alcohol abuse during pregnancy, which can harm the unborn baby,” she adds.
Midwives also keep a close eye on the expectant mother for any danger signs during pregnancy. It’s important to book your first appointment with the maternity clinic early, to ensure early detection of any problems, says Javan.
She encourages women to book their first visit as soon as they know they are pregnant or before 20 weeks. Midwives can then check the stage of pregnancy, determine any abnormalities in the foetus, provide a full examination of the mother and assessment of her health status, monitor her pregnancy journey, provide prenatal education and prepare her for a safe delivery.
Basic antenatal care
At your first visit maternity clinic visit, a midwife will take a detailed medical and family history to assess your overall health.
Your blood pressure, height and weight will also be checked, and you will be offered blood tests to check;
- Your blood group;
- See if you have anaemia,
- Any infectious diseases or sexually transmitted infections;
- Determine if you are immune to rubella (German measles) – a contagious viral infection preventable by vaccine.
The midwife may also suggest a urine test to see if you have a urinary tract infection.
Your midwife will determine how far along you are in your pregnancy and give you information to help you keep healthy and ensure you have good support and care. You will then be given your next appointment date. These check-ups are important developmental milestones for the foetus.
“We advise all mothers to eat healthy foods so that unborn babies can get all the nutrients they need to develop. Once babies are born, healthy eating also assists in producing quality breast milk,” says Sister Bernadette Wingrove, the Operational Nursing Manager at the Khayelitsha Midwife Obstetric Unit.
Information supplied by the Western Cape Department of Health.