Who’s Who In Your Antenatal Team
Did you know that Sri Lanka has one of the best antenatal care systems in Asia? In fact our indicators for maternal and infant health care are comparable to many high income developed countries. This is largely due to a good network of antenatal caregivers within the public health care system island-wide. It’s very important to get to know the professionals available to help you, both through public and private health care systems, so you can make best use of these resources to care for yourself and your baby through pregnancy, birth and early motherhood. Here are some of the key actors involved in antenatal care in Sri Lanka:
The Midwife (PHM)
A key player in the antenatal team is your local public health Midwife, with whom you may come into regular contact with. Midwives are trained in family planning, maternal health and child care. They are trained to quickly identify and address many of the common health issues pregnant mothers, new mothers and infants may face. Due to an excellent network of dedicated public health Midwives throughout Sri Lanka, over 95% of pregnancies are identified very early, usually within the first trimester.
In Sri Lanka, if you’re married and between the ages of 16-50, chances are your local Midwife will pay you a home visit every three months or so, to help answer any questions you may have about reproductive and family health. If she hasn’t visited you yet, don’t forget to check with your nearest Medical Officer of Health Clinic, to make sure you’re registered.
If you mention you’ve missed a period to your Midwife during one of her routine visits, she may help you conduct a simple urine test to identify if you’re pregnant. If the test results are positive, she will give you a form to maintain your health records throughout your pregnancy. She will next encourage you to attend one of the nearest Medical Office of Health Clinics.
Medical Office Of Health (MOH)
Your Medical Office of Health brings together professionals in public health in your area. Register to attend the regular clinics organized by the Medical Officer of Health for antenatal and infant care. Through these clinics pregnant mothers are given important information about proper diet, nutrition, exercise and self-care during pregnancy, as well as training on caring for infants. During your first visit here, the Medical Officer will recommend some routine tests, checks and scans to ensure the healthy development of your baby. If your pregnancy is classified as high risk, or if there are any other complications that need to be looked into, the MOH will direct you to a specialized Obstetrician.
Obstetricians are medical doctors specializing in the care of women during pregnancy, labour and after birth. Your Midwife or Medical Officer of Health will direct you to an obstetrician at a Government Hospital if there is a need. You can also privately channel an Obstetrician of your choice if you wish to get specialized advice or discuss any concerns.
Anesthetists are medical doctors specializing in pain relief and anesthesia. If you decide to have an epidural for pain relief during labour, or if you require a caesarean section or instrumental delivery (for example with forceps or ventouse) your Anesthetist would be around to help you.
Pediatrician (Neonatalogist – A Doctor specializing in the care of new born)
Pediatricians are medical doctors specializing in the care of babies and children. A Pediatrician may check your baby after the birth to make sure your baby is in good health before discharging both of you from hospital. If you’re having a difficult labor, a Pediatrician may also be present during the birth, to assist your baby when he or she is born.
You may have to take at least one ultrasound scan during your pregnancy. A Sonographer is specially trained to carry out ultrasound scans. A Sonographer will normally perform your dating, nuchal translucency or anomaly scan. In Sri Lanka the scan may be done by your obstetrician or another Doctor from the the team.
Whether you ultimately continue through the public health system or opt for a privately channeled obstetrician, identify the team available to help you during your pregnancy as early as possible and establish contact with them. Arranging for regular visits by your Midwife will help you take better care of yourself and detect any complications very early on. Attending the Medical Office of Health Clinics will also give you access to valuable information on caring for yourself and your infant, which will supplement the advice given to you by a privately channeled Obstetrician. So don’t forget to make use of the great resources the Sri Lankan health care system freely provides especially for you and your baby, during this important time.
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