Prenatal care helps to ensure that both the mother and baby are safe and healthy. For moms-to-be, it’s important to have a strong medical support team to help resolve any questions or concerns that come up during the pregnancy.
Unfortunately, the United States is facing a shortage of healthcare professionals, especially primary care physicians. The good news is that the number of family nurse practitioners is growing and will help offset the physician shortage. Nurse practitioners can be an excellent source of information and support for expectant mothers. Here’s how they can help mothers get through their pregnancies and welcome a happy, healthy baby.
Routine Pregnancy Care
Nurse practitioners are highly trained medical professionals and can perform many of the same pregnancy services as a doctor. A nurse practitioner can take care of routine pregnancy exams, run tests, and perform ultrasounds to check on the baby’s development.
During a healthy pregnancy, most moms-to-be can see a nurse practitioner for the majority of their prenatal visits. At these visits, the NP will monitor vitals like blood pressure, track changes in the uterus, and keep an eye on the mother’s weight and “fundal height” (the height of the abdomen). In addition to ultrasounds, these routine checks will help ensure that any potential complications are spotted quickly.
Providing Growth and Development Information
Many first-time moms aren’t sure what to expect in terms of their baby’s growth and development. A nurse practitioner can provide all the information they need about how a baby typically develops, guidelines for weight gain, and what to expect during each stage of pregnancy, from morning sickness to swollen ankles.
Nurse practitioners are extremely knowledgeable and can provide new moms with all the information they need so they can schedule their prenatal visits and know when to call if something goes wrong. Advice from an NP can help provide peace of mind for anxious new moms.
Offering Prenatal Care Advice
When a pregnancy test is positive, the preparations need to begin right away. Fetal development takes about nine months, but a mother-to-be needs to make some lifestyle adjustments from the very beginning and should plan to stay in close contact with their medical team from the beginning.
A nurse practitioner is qualified to help moms plan for their pregnancy and offer prenatal advice. They will suggest a regular schedule of prenatal visits, provide dietary suggestions to promote health for both mom and baby, and give moms-to-be information about regular exercise and what to watch out for. Since many critical developments occur in every stage of pregnancy, a trusted nurse practitioner can be an incredible resource for first-time moms.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about what expectant mothers should and shouldn’t do during their pregnancy. Which prenatal vitamins are necessary? Is it okay to drink coffee during pregnancy? What should pregnant mothers eat and what should they avoid?
A nurse practitioner can help expectant mothers figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to prenatal care. They can offer guidance on diet, especially for high-risk moms who might need to reduce certain types of foods.
They can also help to answer medical questions that may come up during pregnancy. They can help moms determine what is and isn’t normal during pregnancy and offer advice on tricky situations. If necessary, they can pull in help from an MD to clear up any additional questions.
Looking Out for Signs of Complications
During routine monitoring, a nurse practitioner will be on the lookout for signs of complications during pregnancy. Complications can threaten the life of the mother, the baby, or both, and spotting signs of these complications as quickly as possible can dramatically impact the outcome of the pregnancy.
If an NP notices something out of the ordinary, they will determine what steps are needed to protect the mother and baby. If they are unable to provide the necessary care, they will collaborate with a specialist to ensure that the patient gets what they need.
Providing Emotional Support and Peace of Mind
In addition to medical advice and expertise, nurse practitioners provide another very important service: emotional support. Having a knowledgeable and caring person to call on when there are questions or concerns can make all the difference for an expectant mother.
A nurse practitioner’s guidance, expertise, and support can provide critical peace of mind and help moms get through their pregnancies with fewer worries and more confidence.
How are Nurse Practitioners Limited?
Many moms-to-be work with nurse practitioners and don’t need to interact much with their assigned doctors during their pregnancy. So, what can doctors provide that a nurse practitioner can’t? How are nurse practitioners limited in helping people through their pregnancies?
Ultimately, it depends. Each state has its own restrictions on the services a nurse practitioner can provide. In some states that allow full practice, an NP can provide almost all the same services as a doctor, including prescribing medication. In states with reduced or restricted practice, however, nurse practitioners are more limited in what they can provide.
NPs have advanced training and knowledge in general medicine. Many specialize and gain additional knowledge and skills. However, in complex pregnancy cases, even full-practice nurse practitioners might need to bring in the expertise of a doctor, such as an OB/GYN.
Nurse Practitioners Offer Personalized Care During Pregnancy
Many people prefer working with a nurse practitioner over a doctor for their daily needs. Why? Because nurse practitioners typically offer personalized care and really have time to get to know their patients. When a doctor’s roster is full, many of their duties will fall to the NP —including connecting with patients.
It’s important for patients to realize that nurse practitioners offer many of the same services as family practice physicians, and the quality of care is no different. Working with an NP during pregnancy is a great way for women to ensure that their pregnancy is progressing as it should and to ease any worries they might have along the way.