What Does Prenatal Care Include?

Medically Reviewed on 12/29/2022
Prenatal Care
Prenatal care and testing could be recommended by your healthcare practitioner at various points during your pregnancy.

Prenatal care is essential for the well-being of the mother and the fetus.

Prenatal care includes:

  • Medical checkups and screening tests to monitor the baby’s development
  • Education and counseling about ways to handle different aspects of pregnancy
  • Discuss issues, such as:
    • Healthy eating
    • Physical activity
    • Screening tests
    • What to expect during labor and delivery

Medical checkups may include:

  • Taking a medical history
  • Due date estimation
  • Physical examination
  • Weight checks
  • Providing a urine sample

Your doctor may perform the following screening tests depending on the stage of pregnancy:

Why is prenatal care important?

Here are some of the reasons why prenatal is inevitable during pregnancy:

  • Decreases the risk of pregnancy complications. The following can alleviate the risk of pregnancy-related complications and promote fetal health and overall growth:
    • Eat a healthy, safe diet
    • Get regular exercise as advised by the doctor
    • Avoid exposure to potentially harmful substances, such as lead and radiation
    • Controlling existing conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, is essential to prevent serious complications and their effects
  • Reduces the fetus' risk for complications. Avoid tobacco smoking and alcohol during pregnancy because it involves many risks, including:
    • Increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
    • Increases the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can cause:
      • Abnormal facial features
      • Having a small head
      • Poor coordination
      • Poor memory
      • Intellectual disability
      • Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones
    • Even a small amount of prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to chronic issues in the future.
  • Alleviates the risk of neural tube defects. Taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily reduces the risk of neural tube defects. You can obtain folic acid from:
    • Prenatal vitamins contain the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid and other vitamins.
    • Fortified foods, such as cereals, bread, pasta, and other grain-based foods.
    • Although a related form of folic acid called folate is present in orange juice and leafy, green vegetables (kale and spinach), folate is not absorbed efficiently as folic acid.
  • Ensures safe medications for a pregnant person. During pregnancy, avoid acne medications and dietary and herbal supplements.

How often will I have prenatal care visits?

The frequency of prenatal visits depends on the duration of your pregnancy and how complicated it is. For a healthy pregnant person aged between 18 to 35 years, the typical prenatal care schedule includes:

  • Every four or six weeks for the first 32 weeks
  • Every two or three weeks for the 32nd to 37th weeks
  • Every week from the 37th week until delivery

The frequency of visits may increase if you have complications during pregnancy.


The first sign of pregnancy is most often: See Answer

What happens during a prenatal visit?

During the first prenatal visit, your doctor may:

  • Ask for your medical histories, such as diseases, surgeries, and prior pregnancies, and family history
  • Perform a complete physical examination, including a pelvic examination, breast exam, and Pap test
  • Collect your blood and urine samples for lab tests
  • Check your blood pressure, height, and weight
  • Calculate your due date

During this visit, you should ask and discuss issues related to pregnancy and know about ways to stay fit and healthy.

Your subsequent prenatal visits will most likely be brief, with your doctor primarily checking your weight and ensuring that the baby is healthy and growing normally. Most of the visits may include:

  • Checking your blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Measuring your weight gain
  • Listening to the fetal heartbeat
  • Measuring your abdomen to check your baby's growth (once you begin to show)
  • Checking the baby's heart rate

Routine tests during pregnancy include:

  • Blood work to check for anemia, blood type, HIV, and other factors
  • Other tests based on your age, personal or family health history, ethnicity, or the results of routine tests
  • Sometimes, the doctor might even suggest genetic testing

What are the common prenatal tests?

Prenatal testing could be recommended by your healthcare practitioner at various points during pregnancy to ensure that you are healthy and your fetus is developing healthily. Some prenatal testing can detect potential birth abnormalities.

Some of the standard prenatal tests are:

  • Amniocentesis: Identifies if the baby has any genetic or chromosomal condition.
  • Ultrasound: Generates images of the fetus and reproductive organs by using high-frequency sound waves (such as the uterus and cervix).
  • Chorionic villus sampling: Identifies chromosomal or genetic abnormalities in the baby.
Medically Reviewed on 12/29/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Prenatal care. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/prenatal-care

Pregnancy week by week. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/basics/healthy-pregnancy/hlv-20049471

What is prenatal care and why is it important? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/prenatal-care