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Prenatal care is a preventative healthcare service for pregnant women to enhance pregnancy outcomes. Its visits include weight checks, physical exams, blood tests, urinalysis, and image testing (Eilers, 2022). In addition, early and ongoing risk assessment is recommended for all women, with timing and data linked to the woman and fetus’s needs and risk status. It is the most utilized healthcare service, with more than 18 million prenatal visits in the United States (Osterman & Martin, 2018). Since the nineties, prenatal information has been included in the United States Standard of Live Birth to examine the connection between pregnancy results and prenatal care (Osterman & Martin, 2018). Its new standards were reviewed and implemented in 2016 to determine potential concerns and diminish risks during pregnancy and birth (Osterman & Martin, 2018). Because prenatal care services are essential to ensure the health of pregnant women, healthcare providers need to ensure that women can access these services at the time and after their pregnancy.
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The Importance of Prenatal Care
Firstly, prenatal care supports the mother and the fetus’s health during and after pregnancy. Setting early prenatal care and continuance until the delivery period is one of the most practical interventions for decreasing prematurity and enhancing birth outcomes (Shah et al., 2018). Moreover, it lessens the risks of pregnancy-related deaths by expanding the understanding of what occurs during gestation, labor, childbirth, and postpartum. According to CDC estimates, two-thirds of maternal deaths happen during delivery and the first year after childbirth, while the remaining third occur during pregnancy (Gourevitch et al., 2020). Nonetheless, prenatal care is essential in preventing these deaths and determining and mitigating the following morbidity or mortality threats. Since during pregnancy, prenatal assessments ensure the required progression for both the mother and fetus. Also, studies show prospective parents who fail to obtain prenatal care are likely to deliver lower-weight infants and have increased mortality rates than women who receive the care (Shah et al., 2018). Therefore, timely and consistent prenatal care is essential in ensuring pregnant mothers have a full-term and healthful gestation.
Additionally, prenatal care assists in preventing pregnancy-linked complications and encourage essential discussion about healthy and safe pregnancy insurance. Pregnancy complications include gestational diabetes, preterm labor, high blood pressure, anemia, preeclampsia, miscarriage, and infections (Eilers, 2022). Prenatal visits promote dialogue with healthcare providers, assist mothers in control of preexisting conditions, and generate a plan to decrease exposure to harmful factors and maintain a healthy diet and weight. Therefore, with regular prenatal care, women can lower pregnancy risk complications, decrease infant complication risks, provide education about medication during pregnancy, and facilitate prenatal vitamins (Eilers, 2022). Furthermore, through prenatal care, health providers can advise on a healthy lifestyle, including a consistently balanced diet, moderate exercise, and proper management of any preexisting health disorders. Therefore, pregnant mothers should ensure regular doctor visits and use the necessary medications, such as prenatal vitamins for nutrient supplements, to have a complication-free pregnancy.
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Opposing Views of Prenatal Care
Firstly, prenatal care tests are linked to psychological health effects on women. The test may include amniocentesis, invasive prenatal testing known as chorionic villus sampling, and non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) (Biesecker, 2019). Opponents argue that these tests may lead to the identification of unborn child issues that may affect the mental well-being of a parent-to-be. Consequently, psychological distress follows when the mother receives the results that the child may have genetic conditions. These circumstances shift from making an informed decision to undergo testing to a decision about continuing the pregnancy (Biesecker, 2019). While processing the information and its consequence for their unborn child, pregnant mothers utilize their personal, social, familial, and economic resources to sustain growing an affected child (Biesecker, 2019). Instinctively, they may want to protect themselves from details that could lead to the termination of their pregnancy. Nevertheless, they need to acquire details that can assist in making an informed decision about pregnancy continuation and raising the infant. According to the opponents, these intrinsic uncertainties make prenatal care testing challenging for pregnant women, affecting their psychological well-being.
In addition, prenatal care is perceived to be expensive due to the involved prenatal testing. Opponents highlight cost as a factor affecting NIPT choice, which is costly in many countries. NIPT advent increased the availability of prenatal testing to pregnant mothers, but its high cost and impossibility of a diagnosis further implicate the complicated decision-making process (Di Mattei et al., 2021). Also, most prenatal care screenings lack insurance coverage, which becomes a barrier to most mothers accessing these tests. For instance, national health insurance does not refund the costs of NIPT screening. While others, like amniocentesis or cytogenetic diagnosis for advanced maternal-age pregnancies, are partly repaid by national health insurance (Hsiao et al., 2022). Therefore, opponents of prenatal care claim that the cost involved creates barriers for many prospective parents to obtain these screenings, introducing justice and equity issues.
In conclusion, while both sides have valid points, it is clear that the importance of prenatal care outweighs the opposing views of prenatal care. Prenatal care should be acknowledged as a crucial element in enhancing pregnancy outcomes. This is because its adoption in healthcare facilities will ensure the mother’s and child’s health safety and lessen pregnancy-related complications, such as mortality. Health organizations should adopt policies such as Medicaid extensions to cover prenatal expenses to improve health care for pregnant women. Also, health providers should focus on creating awareness among women about prenatal procedures to ensure good mental health. Therefore, prenatal services should be available to all prospective parents to provide a safe gestation and delivery period.
- Biesecker, B. B. (2019). The psychological well-being of pregnant women undergoing prenatal testing and screening: A narrative literature review. Hastings Center Report, 49, S53–S60. https://doi.org/10.1002/hast.1017
- Di Mattei, V., Ferrari, F., Perego, G., Tobia, V., Mauro, F., & Candiani, M. (2021). Decision-making factors in prenatal testing: A systematic review. Health Psychology Open, 8(1), 205510292098745. https://doi.org/10.1177/2055102920987455
- Eilers, K. (2022). Rurality and its effects on prenatal care in Southcentral Kentucky. Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects. https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/stu_hon_theses/973/
- Gourevitch, R. A., Peahl, A. F., McConnell, M., & Shah, N. (2020). Understanding the impact of prenatal care: Improving metrics, data, and evaluation. Health Affairs. https://doi.org/10.1377/forefront.20200221.833522
- Hsiao, C. H., Chen, C. H., Cheng, P. J., Shaw, S. W., Chu, W. C., & Chen, R. C. (2022). The impact of prenatal screening tests on prenatal diagnosis in Taiwan from 2006 to 2019: a regional cohort study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 22(23). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-021-04360-w
- Osterman, M. J. K., & Martin, J. A. (2018). Timing and adequacy of prenatal care in the United States, 2016. National Vital Statistics Reports, 67(3). https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/55174
- Shah, J. S., Revere, F. L., & Toy, E. C. (2018). Improving rates of early entry prenatal care in an underserved population. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 22(12), 1738–1742. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-018-2569-z