When your pregnant, it can feel like you spend more time at your OB’s office than in your own home. But it’s with good reason. After all, it’s a life you’re carrying inside you. But during that precious little time you have your doctor’s attention each month (or every two weeks, or every week), are you making the most of it by asking the best questions? If you’re not sure, here are the questions that you should be asking for the benefit of your baby’s health and yours!
QUESTION: Do I need to take a prenatal vitamin if I already eat a healthy diet?
If you don’t consume five to seven servings of fresh vegetables per day, two to three servings of fresh fruits, two to three high-quality protein servings, 1,500 milligrams of calcium, whole grains and plant oils, then you probably aren’t getting the optimum nutrition that your body requires during pregnancy, says Wendy Askew, M.D., OB/GYN at the Institute for Women’s Health, a San Antonio-based women’s health center.
That’s why Askew says discussing your daily diet—including snacks—is helpful to determine if a supplement (and what type) is best during your pregnancy.
QUESTION: Do you offer “VBAC”s (vaginal birth after cesarean) for patients who want one?
If you’ve already had a cesarean section and want to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC, it is important to discuss your options with your doctor. “You want to have this talk very early in the pregnancy as some physicians don’t offer VBACs to their patients,” says Askew. Why? While statistics show that 60 to 80 percent of women who have had cesareans can have successful vaginal deliveries in subsequent pregnancies, there is always the risk of uterine rupture. Talk to your doctor to gauge your risk factor.
QUESTION: Are there any genetic disorders that I should be screened for?
Some patients have family histories of genetic disorders that can be transmitted to their children. And certain ethnic backgrounds put patients at higher risk for some genetic conditions, which can be screened for. “Talking to your doctor about your background, family health history, etc., can help determine if you’re a candidate for genetic testing. For example Ashkenazi Jews are at increased risk for Tay Sachs disease and Canavan disease, which can be screened for.”
QUESTION: How do I choose a high-quality prenatal vitamin?
Prescription prenatal vitamins have an advantage over store-bought in that they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, according to Askew. “They are tested for purity, content and bioavailability.”
Worth noting, there are excellent quality over-the-counter vitamins that don’t require a prescription, but do your research or ask your OB for recommendations before purchasing as they can vary. Find out what you should look for on the label (such as “pharmaceutical grade”) and what critical nutrients a good prenatal vitamin should include.
QUESTION: What is your c-section rate?
Information about your doctor’s rate of performing cesarean sections may be important to consider. “The percentage of women having their baby delivered via cesarean section has increased in the United States to around 33 percent,” says Askew.
C-sections are an important intervention that can save the lives of mothers and babies and are potentially necessary for any pregnant patient. However, Askew says they’re not necessary for most deliveries, and they have increased risks associated with them compared to uncomplicated vaginal deliveries.
If you are hoping to avoid an unnecessary cesarean section, you may want to know what your doctor’s c-section delivery rate is, and if it is significantly higher than the national average, you may want to dig deeper to find out why.
QUESTION: What does routine prenatal care involve?
Ask your doctor how many sonograms or ultrasounds you can expect to have and how often you will have to visit the doctor for routine check-ups.
“You’ll also want to know what type of lab work you should expect, and when,” Askew adds.
Typically lab testing is done at the beginning of a pregnancy, to check a patients’ blood type, complete blood count and immunity to rubella, and hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis screenings are also done. However, additional blood work may be done for genetic screenings or to see if the baby is at increased risk for certain detectable genetic conditions, such as Down Syndrome or Trisomy 18 or 13 (and limited other conditions that can be detected).
QUESTION: Can I exercise during my pregnancy?
In general, Askew says it’s safe to exercise during pregnancy, but you need to discuss what types of exercise is safe early on.
You may not be able to continue exercising at the level or intensity you did prior to pregnancy. Or as your belly grows, you may be uncomfortable and want to learn about alternatives like swimming.
QUESTION: How much weight should I gain during the pregnancy?
The recommendations for weight gain tend to fluctuate, so even if this isn’t your first pregnancy, it’s smart to chat with your doctor about weight gain. Your doctor may advise weight gain outside the standard depending on your health history, medical conditions, etc., so it’s smart to discuss weight instead of guessing.
QUESTIONS: What foods should be avoided in pregnancy?
From avoiding raw fish to limiting caffeine, your doctor can help you map out a healthy—and tasty—meal plan. But they need to know what foods (like sushi, gluten-free, unpasteurized cheeses, raw or vegan, etc.) you typically eat and what ones you have an aversion to. Askew adds that patients should also ask their doctors about food preparation habits, like washing all produce well before eating it.
Ultimately, Askew advises that no question is a silly or inappropriate one. “Any concern or question should be posed to your doctor. Your OB is your partner in pregnancy and should be seen as a resource to help you and your baby stay healthy.”