Getting good care before, during, and after your pregnancy is very important. It 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. Ideally, you should talk with your health care provider before you start trying to become pregnant. Here are some things you will need to do:
Choose a provider: You will want to choose a provider for your pregnancy and childbirth. This provider will provide prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum services.
A provider for your pregnancy and child...
You have many decisions to make when you are expecting a baby. One of the first is to decide what kind of health care provider you want for your pre...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Take folic acid: If you are considering becoming pregnant, or are pregnant, you should take a supplement with at least 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid every day. Taking folic acid will decrease the risk for certain birth defects. Prenatal vitamins almost always contain more than 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid per capsule or tablet.
Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of certain birth defects. These include spina bifida, anencephaly, and some heart ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
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 recreational 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:
- Ultrasound tests to see how your baby is growing and help establish a due date
- Glucose tests to check for gestational diabetes
- Blood test to check for normal fetal DNA in your blood
- Fetal echocardiography to check the baby's heart
- Amniocentesis to check for birth defects and genetic problems
- Nuchal translucency test to check for problems with the baby's genes
- Tests to check for sexually transmitted disease
The VDRL test is a screening test for syphilis. It measures substances (proteins), called antibodies, which your body may produce if you have come i...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Blood type testing such as Rh and ABO
Rh incompatibility is a condition that develops when a pregnant woman has Rh-negative blood and the baby in her womb has Rh-positive blood.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
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 is right for you.
Screen for genetic problems
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test some pregnant women have to screen their baby for genetic problems.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you may need to see your provider more often and have additional tests.
While you are pregnant, your health care provider may do tests to check your baby's health. The tests may be done at any time while you are pregnant...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING PREGNANCY
Your provider will talk with you about how to manage common pregnancy complaints such as:
Common pregnancy complaints
Growing a baby is hard work. Your body will go through a lot of changes as your baby grows and your hormones change. Along with the aches and pains...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Morning sickness
- Backaches, leg pain, and other aches and pains during pregnancy
- Problems sleeping
- Skin and hair changes
- Vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy
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.
Most women who are pregnant can keep working during their pregnancy. Some women are able to work right up until they are ready to deliver. Others m...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Most of the time, traveling while you are pregnant can be safe and enjoyable. However, it is still a good idea to talk to your health care provider ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Your health care provider may order you to stay in bed for a few days or weeks. This is called bed rest. Bed rest used to be recommended routinely f...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
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 provider will monitor you closely and take special care of you and your baby during the remainder of your term.
Common complications include:
- Diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes).
- High blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia). Your provider will talk with you about how to care for yourself if you have preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is high blood pressure and signs of liver or kidney damage that occur in women after the 20th week of pregnancy. While rare, preeclamps...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Premature or preterm changes in the cervix.
- Problems with the placenta. It may cover the cervix, pull away from the womb, or not work as well as it should.
Cover the cervix
Placenta previa is a problem of pregnancy in which the placenta grows in the lowest part of the womb (uterus) and covers all or part of the opening t...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Early labor.
- Your baby is not growing well.
- Your baby has medical problems.
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:
Birth plans are guides that parents-to-be make to help their health care providers best support them during labor and delivery.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
What to include in your birth plan
Birth plans are guides that parents-to-be make to help their health care providers best support them during labor and delivery.Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- How you want to manage pain during labor, including whether to have an epidural block
Manage pain during labor
There is no one best method for dealing with pain during labor. The best choice is the one that makes the most sense for you. Whether you choose to...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- How you feel about episiotomy
- What would happen if you need a C-section
- How you feel about forceps delivery or vacuum-assisted delivery
In an assisted vaginal delivery, the doctor will use special tools called forceps to help move the baby through the birth canal. Forceps look like 2 ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Who you want with you during delivery
It is also a good idea to make a list of things to bring to the hospital. Pack a bag ahead of time so you have it ready to go when you go into labor.
Things to bring to the hospital
The arrival of your new son or daughter is a time of excitement and joy. It is often also a hectic time, so it can be hard to remember to pack every...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
As you get close to your due date, you will notice certain changes. It is not always easy to tell when you will 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.
When you will go into labor
If you have never given birth before, you may think you will just know when the time comes. In reality, it is not always easy to know when you are g...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Pass your due date
Most pregnancies last 37 to 42 weeks, but some take longer. If your pregnancy lasts more than 42 weeks, it is called post-term (past due). This hap...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Inducing labor refers to different treatments used to either start or move your labor at a faster pace. The goal is to bring on contractions or to m...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Once labor begins, you can use a number of strategies to get through labor.
Strategies to get through labor
No one will tell you that labor is going to be easy. Labor means work, after all. But, there is plenty you can do ahead of time to prepare for labo...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOUR CHILD IS BORN
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.
If you had a vaginal delivery, you will likely spend 1 to 2 days in the hospital before you go home.
1 to 2 days in the hospital before you ...
Most women will remain in the hospital for 24 hours after delivery. This is important time for you to rest, bond with your new baby and to get help ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days
Most women will remain in the hospital for 2 to 3 days after a cesarean birth (C-section). Take advantage of the time to bond with your new baby, ge...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
How to care for yourself at home
You are going home after a C-section. You should expect to need help caring for yourself and your newborn. Talk to your partner, parents, in-l...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Benefits to breastfeeding
Experts say that breastfeeding your baby is good for you and your baby. If you breastfeed for any length of time, no matter how short it is, you...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Lose your pregnancy weight
You should plan to return to your pre-pregnancy weight by 6 to 12 months after delivery. Most women lose half of their baby weight by 6 weeks after ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Be patient with yourself as you learn to breastfeed. It can take 2 to 3 weeks to get the hang of it. There is a lot to learn, such as:
- How to care for your breasts
- Positioning your baby for breastfeeding
- How to overcome any breastfeeding problems
- Breast milk pumping and storage
- Breastfeeding skin and nipple changes
- Timing of breastfeeding
If you need help, there are many resources for new moms.
The following organizations are good resources for information on breastfeeding and breastfeeding problems:La Leche League International -- www. llli...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
WHEN TO CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
Call your 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 medicines
- You might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, chemicals, radiation, or unusual pollutants
Call your provider immediately if you are pregnant and you:
- Have a fever, chills, or painful urination
- Vaginal bleeding
- 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
You should see your doctor before you get pregnant.
B. FalseCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is true. To help ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby, see your health care provider for a prepregnancy visit. This is care you receive before you get pregnant. Your health care provider will check for any problems that might affect you and your baby. You'll also learn what you can do to have a healthy baby.
You should take a prenatal vitamin with at least ____ of folic acid every day.
A. 200 micrograms
B. 40 grams
C. 400 micrograms
D. You don't need folic acid.Correct AnswerThe correct answer is 400 micrograms. Folic acid helps reduce the risk of birth defects in a baby's brain and spine. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Pregnant women may need even higher levels of folic acid. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.
The goals of prenatal care include:
A. Check your health and your baby's health
B. Look for changes that may lead to a high-risk pregnancy
C. Talk with you about diet and exercise while you're pregnant
D. Explain how to manage pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness
E. A and B
F. All of the aboveCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is all of the above. Regular prenatal visits help your health care provider check your health and your baby's health. Prenatal care can help you manage any problems that may come up during your pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider about how many prenatal visits you'll need during your pregnancy.
Pregnant women should avoid:
B. Drug use
E. A, B, and C
F. All of the aboveCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is A, B, and C. Pregnant women should avoid all alcohol and drug use and not smoke. These habits can harm both you and your baby. Talk with your health care provider if you need help stopping. It's fine to have caffeine as long as you don't have more than 200 mg per day, which is equal to one 12-ounce cup of coffee.
Some medicines and herbal remedies can harm your baby.
B. FalseCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is true. Some medicines and herbal remedies may interfere with your baby's development. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Ask which medicines are safe during pregnancy. Don't stop taking any medicine before talking with your health care provider.
Pregnant women should not exercise.
B. FalseCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is false. It's true that some women with high-risk pregnancies may need to limit their activities. But as long as your doctor gives the go-ahead, it's safe to exercise while you are pregnant. Walking, cycling, and swimming are good choices. Avoid contact sports and activities that put you at risk for falling.
Which of the following is NOT a common pregnancy symptom?
A. Morning sickness
B. Having to urinate often
D. Bleeding from the vagina
E. Vaginal discharge
F. HeartburnCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is bleeding from the vagina. This may be a sign that you are going into labor early (preterm labor), so tell your health care provider right away if you notice bleeding. Other common pregnancy symptoms include swelling in your legs, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and shortness of breath.
You should call your doctor for which of the following symptoms:
A. Fever, chills, or pain when you urinate
B. Belly pain that is new or becomes worse
C. Bleeding from the vagina
D. Any of the aboveCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is any of the above. You should also call your doctor if you are in the last half of your pregnancy and notice the baby is moving less or not at all.
Which of the following can lead to a high-risk pregnancy?
A. Mother’s age
B. Health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure
C. Unhealthy lifestyle, such as using tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs
D. Not getting regular prenatal care
E. Any of the aboveCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is any of the above. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your health care provider will monitor you closely throughout your pregnancy. Doing so can help make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
A woman can always tell when she goes into labor.
B. FalseCorrect AnswerThe correct answer is false. It isn’t always easy to know when you’re going into labor. The steps leading up to labor can last for days. You may have false labor a month or even a day before true labor starts. Call your health care provider if you think you may be going into labor. He or she can tell you whether to come in for an exam.
Cline M, Young N. Antepartum care. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2019. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 18.
Greenberg JM, Haberman B, Narendran V, Nathan AT, Schibler K. Neonatal morbidities of prenatal and perinatal origin. In: Resnik R, Lockwood CJ, Moore TR, Greene MF, Copel JA, Silver RM, eds. Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 73.
Gregory KD, Ramos DE, Jauniaux ER. Preconception and prenatal care. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 6.
Magowan BA, Owen P, Thomson AT. Early pregnancy care. In: Magowan BA, Owen P, Thomson A, eds. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Ltd.; 2019:chap 6.
Williams DE, Pridjian G. Obstetrics. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 20.
- Pre-existing diabetes and pregnancy
- Teenage pregnancy
- Common symptoms during pregnancy
- Prenatal care in your second trimester
- Gestational diabetes - self-care
- Prenatal care in your first trimester
- Managing your weight gain during pregnancy
- Pregnancy and travel
- Preeclampsia - self-care
- Prenatal care in your third trimester
Review Date: 9/28/2017
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Internal review and update on 01/19/2019 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.