The practice of modern medicine

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Prenatal clinics provide a number of elements. There is first, the care of the pregnant woman, especially if she is in a vulnerable group likely to develop some complication during the last few weeks of pregnancy and subsequent delivery. Many potential hazards, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can be identified and measures taken to minimize their effects. In developing countries pregnant women are especially susceptible to many kinds of disorders, particularly infections such as malaria. Local conditions determine what special precautions should he taken to ensure a healthy child. Most pregnant women, in their concern to have a healthy child, are receptive to simple health education. The prenatal clinic provides an excellent opportunity to teach the mother how to look after herself during pregnancy, what to expect at delivery, and how to care for her baby. If the clinic is attended regularly, the woman's record will he available to the staff that will later supervise the delivery of the baby: this is particularly important for someone who has been determined to be at risk. The same clinical unit should he responsible for prenatal, natal, and postnatal care as well as for the care of the newborn infants.

Most pregnant women can he safely delivered in simple circumstances without an elaborately trained staff or sophisticated technical facilities, provided that these can be called upon in emergencies. In developed countries it was customary in premodern times for the delivery to take place in the woman's home supervised by a qualified midwife or by the family doctor. By the mid-20th century women, especially in urban areas, usually preferred to have their babies in a hospital, either in a general hospital or in a more specialized maternity hospital. In many developing countries traditional birth attendants supervise the delivery. They are women, for the most part without formal training, who have acquired skill by working with others and from their own experience. Normally they belong to the local community where they have the confidence of

the family, where they are content to live and serve, and where their services are of great value. In many developing countries the better training of him attendants has a high priority. In developed Western countries there has been a trend toward delivery by natural childbirth, including delivery in a hospital without anesthesia, and home delivery.

Postnatal care services are designed to supervise the return to normal of the mother. They are usually given by the staff of the same unit that was responsible for the delivery. Important considerations are the mailer of breast- or artificial feeding and the care of the infant. Today the prospects for survival of babies born prematurely or after a difficult and complicated labour, as well as for neonates (recently born babies) with some physical abnormality, are vastly improved. This is due to technical advances, including those that can determine defects in the prenatal stage, as well as to the growth of neonatology as a specialty. A vital part of the family health-care service is the child welfare clinic, which undertakes the care of the newbom. The first step is the thorough physical examination of the child on one or more occasions to determine whether or not it is normal both physically and, if possible, mentally. Later periodic examinations serve to decide if the infant is growing satisfactorily. Arrangements can be made for the child to be protected from major hazards by, for example, immunization and dietary supplements. Any intercurrent condition, such as a chest infection or skin disorder, can be detected early and treated. Throughout the whole of this period mother and child are together, and particular attention is paid to the education of the mother for the care of the child.

: 11/11/2009