Ever wondered why you have to go for so many gynae check-ups when you’re pregnant? And whether they’re actually necessary? A doctor explains their vital importance.

As a parent-to-be, you’d be forgiven for looking for ways to save some money. But skipping routine gynae check-ups should never be an option. Yes, even if everything feels fine. “It’s actually negligent,” says Dr Ameera Adam, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at Mediclinic Constantiaberg in Cape Town. “Let your doctor determine your risk category and how often you need to be seen. Blood pressure and urine checks after 20 weeks are very important.”  

When should you have your first check-up?

Assuming your pregnancy is planned, the first check-up should happen even before you fall pregnant, says Dr Adam. “The patient should start taking folic acid at least three months before falling pregnant as this decreases neural tube defect risks,” she says. Once you realise that you may be pregnant, you should make an appointment right away. Ideally, you’re aiming to see the doctor in the first five or six weeks. “This appointment is for confirmation and to exclude ectopic pregnancy, in other words, to ascertain that the baby is in the uterus. It also establishes whether it’s a singleton or multiple/twin pregnancy.” At this check-up your doctor will also give you important advice about vitamins, food and exercise.  

What happens at follow-up visits?

Every visit will be a maternal health assessment, says Dr Adam. Expect a urine test (so don’t pop into the loo without a bottle on your way in), blood pressure and weight check-ups and an ultrasound. Early in the pregnancy there will be blood tests to check your blood group and iron levels.  

How these tests can help

“The earlier we pick up a problem, the earlier we can solve it and assist where necessary. Most conditions are more easily treated if picked up early,” says Dr Adam. She explains that doctors use foetal growth charts that are essential for assessing the wellbeing of the unborn baby – and in order to use them, the doctor needs to be conducting the examinations you’d get at your routine check-ups.  

Picking up issues before they become a problem

The most common conditions Dr Adam sees in pregnant women are anaemia and low levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Other potential risks may include the mother’s blood type (if she is Rhesus negative), certain dietary choices, and lifestyle habits. These are all factors that a pregnant woman might ignore or be unaware of were it not for her check-ups.  

When to make an emergency appointment

Even if you go for all your check-ups, unexpected emergencies can happen. Dr Adam says to call your doctor immediately if you notice the following:

  • Any bleeding, no matter how little
  • Decrease or absence of foetal movement after 24 weeks
  • Rupture of any membranes (if your waters break).

Get clued up

When you’re having a baby there’s so much information out there but it’s hard to decide who to trust. The Mediclinic Baby hub is packed with useful information from trusted Mediclinic doctors that’s relevant to South Africa. Sign up for the Mediclinic Baby programme and you’ll get access to even more helpful resources and support, including weekly information delivered to your inbox, pregnancy education workshops and antenatal courses. All the best as you embark on this exciting journey!  

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.