My doctor just weighs me, measures my uterus, and listens to the baby on a doppler for a few seconds at each prenatal care appointment. The whole thing takes just 5 minutes. I have to take time off from work to come in, and I end up sitting in the waiting room for up to an hour. The whole thing is a big hassle, and this isn't my first pregnancy so I don't need any handholding. Are regular prenatal appointments really all that important?
Prenatal care appointments are that important. Although it is true that not much happens during most prenatal visits, the measurements taken during these appointments can be crucial in allowing early detection of complications in later pregnancy.
When your doctor has a record of your baby's measurements, your blood pressure, and other factors as well as a reliable due date for your pregnancy (all of which are established during prenatal care), your doctor should be able to quickly detect if your baby develops intrauterine growth restriction, pre-eclampsia or other such complications. With early detection, your doctor may have the ability to take action to stop the problems from becoming more serious.
Regular prenatal care starting in early pregnancy can sharply reduce your risk of a stillbirth because of this, given that many stillbirths are preventable if complications are detected early. According to the National Women's Health Information Center, lack of prenatal care means a five times higher risk of stillbirth and a three times higher risk of having a baby with low birth weight. (That's not to say that all stillbirths are preventable with prenatal care, of course, but many are.)
For the majority of women, of course, the pregnancy will proceed smoothly and uneventfully without these complications. But no one can predict who will be affected by late pregnancy complications. The safest bet is to keep going in on the recommended schedule and establishing these records from early on to help your doctor monitor your pregnancy as adequately as possible. If the appointments are causing problems with your work, consider asking for the first appointment of the day and coming early in the morning to reduce the risk of delays in the doctor's office.
Prenatal Care: Frequently Asked Questions. National Women's Health Information Center. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Accessed: June 21, 2009. http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/prenatal-care.cfm