Get Regular Prenatal Care

Prenatal care is the care you get while pregnant. You can get prenatal care from a doctor, midwife or other medical provider.

Getting prenatal care as soon as you think you are pregnant and continuing this care until the baby is born is important for the health of you and your baby.

While your baby is growing inside, your own health is very important. There are some things you need to do on your own, such as eating healthy foods, exercising, getting plenty of rest and saying “no” to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.

For other things, you need special help from a doctor, nurse or midwife who will check your health and the health of your unborn baby and identify potential problems before they become serious for you or your unborn baby.

Make a prenatal appointment as soon as you find out you are pregnant! Early and regular prenatal care can prevent problems in pregnancy.

Don’t forget to also make a dental appointment! The health of your teeth and gums affect your baby too. Take good care of your teeth by brushing and flossing daily. Untreated dental problems can cause complications during pregnancy. Learn more about teeth and gums.

High Risk Pregnancies

Pregnancies with a greater chance of complications are called “high-risk.” This does not mean there will be problems but it may require you to see your doctor, nurse or midwife more often.

Being very young or older than 35, being overweight or underweight, being pregnant with twins or other multiples, having health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or HIV infection, and having had problems with a previous pregnancy like a premature birth or your baby weighing less than 5 1/2 pounds are all things that could increase your risk of having a high risk pregnancy. Learn more about the warning signs and risk factors of preterm labor at the CDC website.

Even if you feel fine, make sure to go to all your prenatal care appointments. You can always take your baby’s father or a friend with you to your appointments.

What to Expect at Your Appointments

There are important questions and tests that can help prevent or reduce the risk of health problems early in pregnancy.

The First Appointments

At your first or second prenatal care appointment your prenatal care provider will usually:

  • Ask you questions about your health, the baby’s father health and your family’s health
  • Check your blood pressure
  • Talk to you about any medications you are taking
  • Weigh you
  • Help you estimate when your baby will be born (due date)
  • Talk to you about taking prenatal vitamins and it’s importance
  • Test for problems with your unborn baby
  • Blood tests to check for anemia, your blood type, and HIV.
  • A pap smear to test for cervical cancer and other vaginal infections
  • Take a urine sample to test for infection
  • And other lab work as needed

At Each Appointment

The following are usually done at each prenatal care appointment:

  • A weigh-in
  • Blood pressure check
  • Measure to see how your baby is growing
  • Listen for baby’s heartbeat
  • Check for swelling of hands and feet

Your prenatal care appointments are a good time to tell your doctor, nurse or midwife if you are having health problems or are worried about your pregnancy. They can give you advice on how to take care of yourself.

Don’t be afraid to talk about issues that might be uncomfortable or embarrassing. It’s OK to say if you drink alcohol, take any drugs, or use tobacco or if your partner hurts or scares you. The more they know about what your life is like, the better they can help you.

References:

“Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Baby Book” 2005 Edition
“9 Months to Get Ready… You Can Make a Difference” 2007 Edition

Pregnant and Prenatal Care