What is Maternity Care?

Tara Barnett

Maternity care is the kind of medical care that encompasses prenatal care, assistance during childbirth, and care after birth for mothers. There are many different strategies for maternity care across the world, but Western medicine and obstetrics or midwifery are overwhelmingly the most common. Making medical resources available to mothers can significantly improve the chances of both the child and mother surviving. Safety and health for both the mother and child is the primary goal of maternity care, no matter which strategy is used.

A pregnant woman.
A pregnant woman.

In many cases, maternity care begins as prenatal care. This type of medical care primarily constitutes screening and making sure that the mother is in optimum health during pregnancy. Vitamins and supplements may be prescribed, and various examinations may be administered in order to see, hear, or otherwise inspect the fetus. Prenatal care often includes discussion of birth plans, help with discomfort during pregnancy, and information about what to expect during childbirth.

Midwives are responsible for monitoring the development of a pregnancy and preparing a mother for delivery.
Midwives are responsible for monitoring the development of a pregnancy and preparing a mother for delivery.

While prenatal care is an important aspect of care for pregnant women and ideally all women would have access to maternity care upon becoming pregnant, many women who do not have medical insurance or enough money for health care wait until just before birth to seek medical attention. This is because the cost of prenatal care without insurance can be overwhelmingly expensive. Unfortunately, it is during the prenatal phase of care that many illnesses and birth defects are discovered, some of which can endanger the life of the mother. As such, it is very important to seek maternity care as soon as possible.

One of the most important aspects of maternity care is assistance during childbirth. Although women are often capable of delivering babies without medical intervention, obstetricians and midwives are usually able to deliver children with less danger to either the mother or child. In complex situations, procedures like a cesarean section may be undertaken to improve chances of survival.

After the child is born, he or she is usually cared for by a pediatrician. The mother, on the other hand, is usually still experiencing the effects of childbirth and may still receive care from an obstetrician or midwife. This can include recovering physically and emotionally, but care provided in a hospital usually only involves making sure all vital signs are stable. Some medical problems relating to childbirth, such as hemorrhoids, tears, or infections, must be monitored and repaired when possible. Once the mother is stable, it is usually understood that maternity care is complete and she can leave the hospital.

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