how do you prepare for prenatal care
Prenatal care can help you plan your pregnancy and take appropriate steps to make sure things go smoothly. Learn more about what to expect

Preparation for prenatal care can begin even before you become pregnant. Before trying to conceive, precautions to take to ensure a healthy pregnancy including:

  • Schedule a visit with your gynecologist if you intend to become pregnant (at a preconception appointment, you can discuss any medical concerns, family history, and medications to ensure they are safe to continue while you try to conceive)
  • Staying active and eating healthy foods. (you may continue doing light exercises throughout pregnancy, but strenuous workouts should be stopped)
  • Starting prenatal vitamins as directed, ideally 2 months before becoming pregnant.
  • Quitting smoking and other substances or drugs that can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight
  • Examining your family history to look for inherited disorders or other factors to consider when starting a family.
  • Taking recommended genetic screening tests for both you and your partner before conceiving

Prenatal care can help prevent abnormal pregnancies and allows your doctor to identify whether you may be at risk of complications. This can go a long way toward helping you plan your pregnancy and take appropriate steps to make sure things go smoothly.

What should you take to your first prenatal care visit?

When you are between 10-12 weeks pregnant, you will have your first prenatal appointment (a pregnancy confirmation visit and possibly an early ultrasound typically occurs between 5-6 weeks). To make the most of the appointment, bring the following health records with you:

  • Prior medical records
  • Results of previous lab work
  • Findings of your most recent pap smear
  • Prior delivery records (if applicable)
  • Ultrasounds

What are prenatal services?

Getting early and regular prenatal care can help you take the best care of yourself and your baby. Most prenatal services usually include:

  • Vaccinations and other preventive and treatment services for illnesses and infections during pregnancy
  • Tips for healthy lifestyle habits, such as a nutritious diet, regular exercise, a healthy weight, prenatal supplements, and abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs
  • Appropriate medications for high-risk pregnancies
  • Prenatal genetic counseling and testing if you or your partner have an abnormal screening or a family history of genetic disorders
  • Prenatal classes on labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and baby care

Prenatal visits may also include:

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How often are prenatal checks?

At each visit, your doctor will check to see that you and your baby are in good health. If there are any issues, acting as soon as possible will benefit both you and your baby. Prenatal care is especially important for women who are carrying high-risk pregnancies. Prenatal exams are frequently scheduled for normal pregnancies with no major complications:

  • Every month from weeks 4-28
  • Every 2 weeks from weeks 29-36
  • Every week from week 37 until delivery 

The schedule above may change depending on your health and the preferences of your doctor. If you have a preexisting health condition such as diabetes, or if complications arise during your pregnancy, you may require additional prenatal care.

What factors can cause high-risk pregnancies?

Factors that may increase the likelihood of complications during pregnancy include:

  • Teen pregnancies or conceiving after age 35
  • Overweight or underweight
  • Problems in previous pregnancies
  • Pregnancies with twins, triplets, etc.
  • Current or past health conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, autoimmune disorders, etc.)

If your pregnancy is deemed high-risk, you will need to see your doctor more frequently to avoid complications during pregnancy and labor.

Who provides prenatal care?

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology certifies obstetricians or gynecologists who specialize in maternal-fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology, or infertility for prenatal care. However, many others who can provide you with prenatal care include:

  • Family physician
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Certified midwife
  • Perinatologist

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Medically Reviewed on 9/29/2021
References
Office on Women's Health. Prenatal Care. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/prenatal-care

National Institutes of Health. What Is Prenatal Care and Why Is It Important? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/prenatal-care

Planned Parenthood. Pre-Pregnancy Health and Planning. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/pre-pregnancy-health