Health care during pregnancy is called prenatal ("pree-NAY-tuhl") care. Getting prenatal care can help you have a healthier baby. It also lowers the risk of your baby being born too early.
During prenatal care, your doctor can find any health problems that may come up.
Get regular prenatal checkups.
Schedule a visit with your doctor as soon as you know you're pregnant, or think you might be. You'll need many checkups with your doctor during your pregnancy. Don't miss any – they are all important.
Be sure to get all the medical tests that your doctor recommends. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.
Take steps to have a healthy pregnancy.
To keep you and your baby healthy, it's important that you:
* Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
* Eat healthy foods and get enough folic acid.
* Stay active.
* Take steps to prevent infections.
* If you just learned you are pregnant, find out what to do next.
Check out these pregnancy do’s and don’ts.
* Make the most of each visit with the doctor.
* Talk with your doctor about:
- Your medical history, including surgeries you've had
- Medicines you take – including vitamins, supplements, and herbs
- Your family’s health history
- Questions you have about pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding
- Anything that’s bothering or worrying you
- If you aren't feeling well, don't wait to call your doctor. Find out when to call your doctor right away.
* Make a birth plan.
- A birth plan describes what you want to happen during labor and after your baby's birth. It can include:
- Where you would like to give birth – at a hospital, birthing center, or at home
- Who you want with you for support (like trusted family members or close friends) before, during, and after your labor
* Get important medical tests.
During your pregnancy, your doctor will recommend medical tests that all women need as part of routine prenatal care. Some tests need to be done more than once.
These tests give your doctor important information about you and your baby. Your blood and urine (pee) will be checked for:
Blood type and Rh factor
Hepatitis B [PDF - 859 KB]
Urinary tract infection
Signs of past infections with Rubella (German measles)
If you are younger than age 25 or have certain risk factors, your doctor may also check for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Talk about your family history.
Share your personal and family health history with your doctor. This will help you and your doctor decide whether you need any other tests, like genetic testing.
* Get tested for diabetes.
Pregnant women at high risk for type 2 diabetes need to get tested at the first prenatal visit. Find out about your risk for type 2 diabetes.
All pregnant women need to get tested for gestational (“jes-TAY-shon-al”) diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy.
What do I need to know about gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can lead to health problems for moms and babies – during and after pregnancy. It’s important to get tested so that you and your doctor can take steps to protect your health and your baby’s health.
You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:
Are overweight or obese
Have a family history of diabetes
Are over age 25
You can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes by eating healthy and staying active during pregnancy.
* Keep track of your baby’s movement.
After about 28 weeks of pregnancy, you will probably start to feel your baby move. Keep track of how often your baby moves. If you think your baby is moving less than usual, call your doctor.
* Be sure to get enough folic acid – at least 400 micrograms (mcg) every day. Folic acid is a vitamin that can prevent birth defects.
Gaining a certain amount of weight during pregnancy is important for your health and your baby's health.
Remember, pregnancy is not a good time to lose weight. Even if you are overweight, you still need to gain some weight for your baby to grow well. Ask your doctor how much weight is healthy for you to gain.
Being physically active may help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast, dancing, or swimming. Do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
To prevent infections and help keep your unborn baby safe:
* Wash your hands often with soap and water.
* Avoid certain foods, such as lunchmeat and soft cheeses.
* Prepare food safely. Don’t forget to rinse fruits and vegetables.
* Being pregnant may be tiring or stressful at times. Extra support from loved ones can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy.