Getting good care before, during, and after your pregnancy can help your baby grow and develop and keep you both healthy. It is the best way to be sure your little one gets a head start on a healthy life.
Good prenatal care includes good nutrition and health habits before and during pregnancy. Here are some things you will need to do:
Take folic acid. If you are considering becoming pregnant, or are pregnant, you should take a supplement with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Taking folic acid will decrease the risk of certain birth defects.
You should also:
Talk with your provider about any medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines. You should only take medicines your provider says are safe to take while you are pregnant.
Avoid all alcohol and drug use and limit caffeine.
Quit smoking, if you smoke.
Go for prenatal visits and tests. You will see your provider many times during your pregnancy for prenatal care. The number of visits and types of exams you receive will change, depending on where you are in your pregnancy:
Talk with your provider about the different tests you may receive during your pregnancy. These tests can help your provider see how your baby is developing and if there are any problems with your pregnancy. These tests may include:
Depending on your family history, you may choose to screen for genetic problems. There are many things to think about before doing genetic testing. Your provider can help you decide if this it right for you.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you may need to see your provider more often and have additional tests.
No two pregnancies are the same. Some women have few or mild symptoms during pregnancy. Many women work their full term and travel while they are pregnant. Others may have to cut back on their hours or stop working. Some women require bed rest for a few days or possibly weeks to continue with a healthy pregnancy.
POSSIBLE PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS
Pregnancy is a complex process. While many women have normal pregnancies, complications can occur. However, having a complication does not mean you will not have a healthy baby. It means your doctor will monitor you closely and take special care of you and your baby during the remainder of your term.
It can be scary to think about possible problems. But it is important to be aware so you can tell your provider if you notice unusual symptoms.
LABOR AND DELIVERY
Talk with your provider about what to expect during labor and delivery. You can make your wishes known by creating a birth plan. Talk with your provider about what to include in your birth plan. You may want to include things like:
As you get close to your due date, you will notice certain changes. It is not always easy to tell when you go into labor. Your provider can tell you when it is time to come in for an exam or go to the hospital for delivery.
Talk with your provider about what happens if you pass your due date. Depending on your age and risk factors, your provider may need to induce labor around 39 to 42 weeks.
Having a baby is an exciting and wonderful event. It is also hard work for the mother. You will need to take care of yourself in the first few weeks after delivery. The type of care you need depends on how you delivered your baby.
Call your health care provider if you are pregnant or think you are pregnant and:
You take medicines for diabetes, thyroid disease, seizures, or high blood pressure
You are not getting prenatal care
You cannot manage common pregnancy complaints without medication
You might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, chemicals, radiation, or unusual pollutants
Call your health care provider immediately if you are pregnant and you:
Have a fever, chills, or painful urination
Severe belly pain
Physical or severe emotional trauma
Have your water break (membranes rupture)
Are in the last half of your pregnancy and notice the baby is moving less or not at all
Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Preconceptional counseling. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014:chap 8.
Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Prenatal care. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014:chap 9.
Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Prenatal diagnosis and fetal care. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 24th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014:chap 14.
McDuffie RS Jr, Beck A, Bischoff K, Cross J, Orleans M. Effect of frequency of prenatal care visits on perinatal outcome among low-risk women. A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1996 Mar 20;275(11):847-51. PMID: 8596222 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8596222.
Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.