Prenatal care is when you get checkups from a doctor, nurse, or midwife throughout your pregnancy. It helps keep you and your future baby healthy.
Why is prenatal care important?
Prenatal care is an important part of staying healthy during pregnancy.
Your doctor, nurse, or midwife will monitor your future baby’s development and do routine testing to help find and prevent possible problems. These regular checkups are also a great time to learn how to ease any discomfort you may be having, and ask any other questions about your pregnancy and the birth of your future baby.
How often will I have prenatal care visits?
How often you’ll get prenatal care depends on how far along your pregnancy is and how high your risk is for complications. The typical prenatal care schedule for someone who’s 18-35 years old and healthy is:
- Every 4 or 6 weeks for the first 32 weeks
- Every 2 or 3 weeks for the 32nd-37th weeks
- Every week from the 37th week until delivery
Your doctor might ask you to come in for check-ups more often if you have a high-risk pregnancy.
What happens during my first prenatal care appointment?
Your first prenatal care visit is usually the longest one. You’ll talk with your doctor about your medical history, the other parent’s medical history, and your family’s’ medical history.
Your doctor will give you a complete check-up, usually with a physical exam and blood and urine tests to make sure you’re healthy. This can include:
- measuring your height, weight, blood pressure, breathing, and pulse
- a breast exam
- a pelvic exam
- a Pap test
- testing for sexually transmitted infections (like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV)
- screening for diabetes, anemia, hepatitis B, and rubella
Your doctor might also talk with you about your diet and lifestyle, and prenatal vitamins. The most important vitamin you can take is folic acid, which ideally you would start taking before you’re even pregnant. Your doctor can give you advice about any changes you can make to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
Some types of medicine are dangerous to use during your pregnancy. Tell your doctor about every medicine, supplement, or drug you’re using, and always check with your doctor before starting any new ones.
Why do people get prenatal tests?
Your doctor, nurse, or midwife may suggest prenatal testing at certain times during your pregnancy, to make sure you’re healthy and that your fetus is developing normally. Some prenatal tests can also find possible birth defects.
Your doctor might recommend specific tests, depending on your age and other risk factors. Some people have a higher risk for problems and birth defects than others. Your doctor will let you know which tests may be right for you.
Some common prenatal tests include