Prenatal Health Care for Women

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Once you know you’re pregnant, you’ll probably spend plenty of time preparing for your new baby by shopping for supplies, stocking up on baby gear and preparing your nursery. But one of the best things you can do for your developing baby is to make sure you schedule regular doctor visits while you’re pregnant so that you get the prenatal care you and your baby need. According to the March of Dimes, you can see an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) for prenatal care, a family practice doctor, a certified-nurse midwife or other health professional.


The Facts

Prenatal care refers to the health care that you get before and while you are pregnant. Ideally, your prenatal care should start well before you actually become pregnant — when you first start thinking about becoming pregnant. If you have a normal pregnancy, you can expect to see your doctor for prenatal care once a month during your first and second trimesters with more frequent visits as your pregnancy progresses.

Identification

At your prenatal visits, your doctor will review your health history, track your weight gain, check your blood pressure and monitor the growth of your uterus at most visits, helping him evaluate whether your pregnancy is developing normally. Your doctor will also give you tests during pregnancy including ultrasounds, blood tests, urine tests and glucose screenings to check for potential problems ranging from gestational diabetes to fetal complications.

Significance

As many as one-third of the more than 4 million women who give birth each year are likely to have pregnancy or fetal complications, according to KidsHealth.org. Many of these complications can be effectively treated; however, untreated or unmonitored complications can cause serious or even fatal problems for expecting moms and their babies.

Expert Insight

As part of your prenatal care, WomensHealth.gov recommends taking five essential steps to promote your baby’s health: If you have a medical condition like diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis, make sure it’s under control before you decide to have a baby. If you smoke or drink alcohol, stop immediately. Check with your doctor about the safety of any medications or supplements you take. Limit your contact with potentially toxic substances, including cat feces. And take a supplement that contains 400 mcg of folic acid every day.

If You Need Help

Every state in the United States offers a form of low-cost or no-cost health care for pregnant women to ensure that they get the prenatal care they need. If you don’t have insurance or if you can’t afford to pay for prenatal care, call your local health department or 800-311-2229 and ask to speak with someone about prenatal care programs in your area.

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