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Prenatal Care

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Prenatal care is the healthcare you get while you are pregnant. The best ways to take care of yourself and your baby are:

  • Get early prenatal care. If you know you're pregnant, or think you might be, call your doctor to schedule a visit.
  • Get 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.
  • Follow your doctor's advice.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health offers the following tips to help you take care of yourself and your baby—both before and during your pregnancy.

Make sure you receive prenatal care. Prenatal care can help keep you and your baby healthy. When you don’t get prenatal care, your baby is three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than if you do get care.

Start early. Your doctor can spot health problems when they see you early and regularly. They can treat many problems and prevent others. They can also let you know the things you can do to give your baby a healthy start to life.

Start taking care of yourself before you start trying to get pregnant. For example, some foods, habits and medicines can harm your baby—even before you get pregnant. Some health problems also can affect pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before pregnancy to learn what you can do to prepare your body.

The five most important things you can do before becoming pregnant are:

  1. Take 400 micrograms of folic acid (400 mcg or 0.4 mg) every day for at least three months before getting pregnant, to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine. It's hard to get all the folic acid you need from foods alone. Taking a vitamin with folic acid is the best and easiest way to be sure you're getting enough.
  2. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Ask your doctor for help.
  3. If you have a medical condition, be sure it is under control. Some conditions include asthma, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, thyroid disease and epilepsy. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  4. Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using, including dietary or herbal supplements. Some medicines are not safe during pregnancy. Your doctor can tell you which are harmful and which medicines you should keep taking.
  5. Avoid contact with toxic substances, poisons or materials at work and at home that could be harmful. Stay away from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.

If you’re pregnant:

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Whether this is your first pregnancy or your third, healthcare is extremely important. Your doctor will check to make sure you and the baby are healthy at each visit. If there are any problems, early action will help you and the baby.
  • Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms (400 mcg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid is most important in the early stages of pregnancy, but you should continue taking folic acid throughout pregnancy.
  • Ask your doctor before stopping any medicines or starting any new medicines. Some medicines are not safe during pregnancy. Even over-the-counter medicines and herbal products can cause side effects or other problems. But not using medicines you need could also be harmful.
  • Avoid X-rays. If you must have dental work or diagnostic tests, tell your dentist or doctor that you are pregnant so that extra care can be taken.
  • Get a flu shot. Pregnant women can get very sick from the flu, which could cause you to need hospital care.
  • Consider participation in an umbilical cord blood banking program. Consult with your health care provider or contact participating organizations to find out more information about umbilical cord blood banking programs.

Learn more tips on caring for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Watch this video to learn more about Prenatal Care from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: