Prenatal care helps decrease risks during pregnancy and increase the chance of a safe and healthy delivery for the mother and child. Regular prenatal visits can help your doctor monitor your pregnancy and identify any problems or complications before they become serious.
Prenatal care ideally starts at least three months before you begin trying to conceive. Some healthy habits to follow during this period include:
- quitting smoking and drinking alcohol
- taking folic acid supplements (400 to 800 micrograms)
- talking to you doctor about your medical conditions and any dietary supplements and over-the-counter or prescription drugs that you take
- avoiding all contact with toxic substances and chemicals at home or work that could be harmful
Once you become pregnant, your physician, or midwife will schedule regular appointments throughout each stage of your pregnancy.
A schedule of visits may involve seeing your doctor:
- every month in the first six months you are pregnant
- every two weeks in the seventh and eighth months you are pregnant
- every week during your ninth month of pregnancy
During these visits, your doctor will check your health and the health of your baby.
Visits may include:
- taking routine tests and screenings, such as a blood test to check for anemia, HIV, and your blood type
- monitoring your blood pressure
- measuring your weight gain
- monitoring the baby’s growth and heart rate
- talking about special diet and exercise
Later visits may also include checking the baby’s position and noting changes in your body as you prepare for birth.
Your doctor may also offer special classes at different stages of your pregnancy.
These classes will:
- discuss what to expect when you are pregnant
- prepare you for the birth
- teach you basic skills for caring for your baby
If your pregnancy is considered high-risk because of your age or health conditions, you may require more frequent visits and special care. You may also need to see a doctor who works with high-risk pregnancies.