What is prenatal care?
Prenatal care is the health care you get while you are pregnant. Take care of yourself and your baby by:
- Getting early prenatal care. If you know you’re pregnant, or think you might be, call your doctor to schedule a visit.
- Getting regular prenatal care. Your doctor will schedule you for many checkups over the course of your pregnancy. Don’t miss any — they are all important.
- Following your doctor’s advice.
Why do I need prenatal care?
Prenatal care can help keep you and your baby healthy. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care.
Doctors can spot health problems early when they see mothers regularly. This allows doctors to treat them early. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others. Doctors also can talk to pregnant women about things they can do to give their unborn babies a healthy start to life.
What happens during prenatal visits?
During the first prenatal visit, you can expect your doctor to:
- Ask about your health history including diseases, operations, or prior pregnancies
- Ask about your family’s health history
- Do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test
- Take your blood and urine for lab work
- Check your blood pressure, height, and weight
- Calculate your due date
- Answer your questions
At the first visit, you should ask questions and discuss any issues related to your pregnancy. Find out all you can about how to stay healthy. Later prenatal visits will probably be shorter. Your doctor will check on your health and make sure the baby is growing as expected. Most prenatal visits will include:
- Checking your blood pressure
- Measuring your weight gain
- Measuring your abdomen to check your baby’s growth (once you begin to show)<
- Checking the baby’s heart rate
While you’re pregnant, you also will have some routine tests. Some tests are suggested for all women, such as blood work to check for anemia, your blood type, HIV, and other factors. Other tests might be offered based on your age, personal or family health history, your ethnic background, or the results of routine tests you have had.
United States Department of Health and Human Services