Staying healthy during pregnancy depends on you, so it is very important for you to know about the many ways to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Every year almost 4 million American women give birth and approximately 33% of them will have some kind of pregnancy-related complication. If you do not get adequate prenatal care you increase the chance that a complication will not be found until it is too late to deal with it. Accordingly, you should start prenatal care as early as possible.
If you are planning a pregnancy, prenatal care should begin even before you get pregnant and you should see your health care provider for a complete checkup. If you are already being treated for a chronic condition, you should talk to your doctor about how it could affect your pregnancy. This is also a good time to talk with your health care provider about other things such as drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine or smoking, and taking a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid, calcium, and iron.
Pregnant women are typically cared for by:
obstetricians who are medical doctors who specialize in pregnancy and childbirth
obstetricians/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) are medical doctors who specialize in pregnancy, childbirth and women's health care
family practitioners who are medical doctors who provide a range of services for patients of all ages
certified midwives who may be a nurse or other professional who specializes in women's health care needs, including prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care for "normal" pregnancies
Your First Visit and Follow-up Appointments
Typically, the first examination should take place during the first 6-8 weeks of your pregnancy. During this first visit, you also can expect to provide a health history, have an exam, provide a urine sample and have a Pap smear for cervical cancer. If you are healthy and there are no complicating risk factors, you can expect to see your health care provider every 4 weeks until about the 28th week of pregnancy, then every 2 weeks until 36 weeks, and then once a week. Throughout your pregnancy you will also have prenatal tests and typically at least one ultrasound. For additional information, please visit the links Prenatal Care and Prenatal Testing.
For your baby's sake and yours, it is important to take care of yourself during your pregnancy. Make sure to get enough rest, do not smoke or drink alcohol or take drugs, do take a prenatal vitamin, and make sure to eat a healthy diet. Your health care provider will suggest weight gain guidelines and will most likely prescribe a prenatal vitamin to make sure you get enough folic acid, iron, and calcium. Your health care provider may also recommend that you do not take any over-the-counter medications or may offer a list of those they think are safe to take.
Talking to Your Health Care Provider
It is important that you call your health care provider immediately if you experience heavy bleeding, a sudden loss of fluid, a marked absence of movement by the baby once he or she has begun moving, or more than three contractions in an hour. For additional information, please visit the link Labor and Birth. If you need help with the costs of medical care please visit the link Medical Care for Pregnant Women.
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