The importance and significance of regular prenatal visits to the doctor or clinic cannot be overstressed. It is essential that attendance be made as early as is practical. If there is any question of pregnancy, then a visit is obligatory.

The initial visit sets the pattern for the future. But besides this, it gives the doctor a series of base-line figures with which he can compare your medical status at subsequent visits. This can be of inestimable value, particularly if complica­tions set in at any stage - and this is a probable likelihood with a certain number of people. There is no knowing at the start if you are destined to be one of those special "at risk" persons.

There are three major aims for following through with adequate antenatal care. These are:

(1)  To make sure that the mother reaches the end of pregnancy as healthy (or maybe even healthier) as she was beforehand.

(2)  To detect any physical or psychological defect as early as possible and correct this promptly.

(3)  That the mother is delivered of a healthy, normal infant.

It is only in the past fifty years that as much attention has been paid to the forty weeks of pregnancy as is paid to the fourteen hours or so of actual labour.

The value and beneficial result of this is reflected in the major decline in mortality figures, both for mothers and new-born babies. In fact, it only requires a quick glance at the striking reduction to be aware of the true benefits of today's insistence on adequate prenatal care.

If you have ever had the time or opportunity to wander through the yard of an old church, this will be impressed on your mind even more indelibly. Most old churchyards had the cemetery as part of the general premises. A check on the tombstones indicates the large number of very young children (and often young mothers) who died, no doubt in childbirth or soon after. Historical novels, and even tales from older members of families, will recount the disasters of yesteryear which regularly overtook the small children and babies in almost every family.

They were, in truth, the bad old days. Proper antenatal care was either non-existent or very skimpy. Midwives did their best. Doctors were often ill-equipped, and tiny cottage hospitals were quite hopeless in their attempts to cope with anything but relatively normal deliveries. Antibiotics, safe and adequate anaesthesia, safe methods for blood transfusion, blood typing and cross matching, and methods for foetal monitoring were still a long way off in those days.