Prenatal care starts with a FREE pregnancy test and once pregnancy is confirmed, prenatal visits typically include a physical exam, weight check and urine sample. Depending on the stage of your pregnancy, health care providers may also do blood tests and ultrasounds. These visits will also include discussions about the health of you and your infant, as well as addressing any questions about the pregnancy.
If you aren’t pregnant, but you plan to try and conceive, you can take the following steps to promote a healthy pregnancy and birth:
- Develop a plan for your reproductive life
- Increase folic acid intake
- Make sure immunizations are up to date
- Control diabetes and other medical conditions
- Avoid smoking, drinking and drugs
- Attain a healthy weight
- Learn about family health history and partner’s health history
- Seek help for depression or anxiety
Benefits of Prenatal Care
With regular prenatal care, the following is possible:
- Reducing the risk of pregnancy complications. Following a healthy, safe diet, getting exercise as advised by a health care provider and avoiding exposure to harmful substances can reduce the risk of problems during pregnancy and ensure the infant healthily develops. Prenatal can also control existing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, which is essential in avoiding serious complications like preeclampsia.
- Reducing the infant’s risk for complications like abnormal facial features, small head, poor coordination, poor memory, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), intellectual disability and problems with the heart, kidneys or bones. These problems can all be caused by tobacco smoke and alcohol use during pregnancy.
- Health care providers can give you good advice on what kind of nutrients you need. For example, 400 micrograms of folic acid daily reduces the risk for neural tube defects. Most prenatal vitamins include this recommended 400 micrograms, as well as other vitamins that pregnant women and developing babies need. Folic acid has also been added to foods like cereals, breads, pasta and other grain-based foods.
- Your health care provider will ensure that the medications you take are safe. Certain medications like some acne treatments and dietary/herbal supplements aren’t safe during pregnancy.