Prenatal care is medical care you get when you’re pregnant. You can get prenatal care from certain health providers, like an obstetrician, a family practice doctor, a certified nurse-midwife, a family nurse practitioner or a women’s health nurse practitioner.
At each prenatal checkup, your provider checks on you and your growing baby. Your provider checks your weight, blood and urine. You can find out your due date and check if there are any vaccinations you need. You also get to experience the exciting moment of seeing your baby for the first time with an ultrasound. Many providers offer ultrasound to all pregnant women.
Your provider gives you prenatal tests to make sure your baby is growing healthy. Some of these tests include amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS) and cystic fibrosis (CF) carrier screening.
Use your prenatal checkups as a time to ask your provider all your questions about pregnancy and your baby.
During pregnancy, your body will go through major changes. Weight gain is the most obvious change that you’ll notice. Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy helps protect your and your baby’s health.
How many pounds you need to add depends on how much you weighed before getting pregnant. Most healthy women should gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy.
Some women who were overweight before pregnancy may face special health risks, so it’s important to take steps to keep mom and baby safe. Regardless of your pre-pregnancy weight, make sure you keep track of your pregnancy weight gain.
Hormone changes can make certain parts of your body more sensitive than usual. Your breasts may start to feel tender in the first trimester. You may notice that your gums are inflamed and bleed. The hair on your head is thicker than usual. Your skin goes through its own set of changes. You may have more acne, or your skin can become itchy or get darker. These changes are normal during pregnancy and most go away after the baby is born.
You may also experience some aches and pains during pregnancy. Most are common and thankfully, there are ways to help alleviate them.
You’re pregnant, so it’s okay to sit back and put your feet up, right? Guess again! For most women, staying active is actually healthy during pregnancy. This doesn’t mean it’s time to start a strenuous exercise routine, but a little aerobic exercise can be good for both you and baby.
Most healthy women should get at least 2 1/2 hours of aerobic exercise every week. That means about 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Try going for a brisk walk, taking a swim or signing up for a dance class. Just be on the lookout for warning signs to stop exercising.
If you’re feeling exhausted during pregnancy, exercise can help you find the extra energy you need! It can also help you manage your weight gain and prevent complications. Even better, it can relieve stress and build the stamina you’ll need to give birth. Once baby is born, it can help you keep baby blues at bay, regain your energy and lose the baby weight.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy other healthy forms of physical activity. Unless your provider says otherwise, it is safe to have sex and it’s a great way for couples to continue their intimacy during pregnancy. Don’t worry your baby has no idea what Mom and Dad are doing! The baby is well protected by a cushion of fluid in your womb and by your abdomen.
Having a baby brings all sorts of feelings. You might feel excited, anxious, sad, stressed and happy all at the same time! It’s okay to feel like you do. There are ways to deal with these emotional and life changes so that you can better enjoy your pregnancy.
Depression during pregnancy is more common than you think. As many as 1 out of 5 pregnant women show signs of depression. If you’re one of them, recognize that some signs are serious and can pose risks for you and baby. The good news is that there are lots of ways to deal with depression. These include therapy, support groups and medications. If you’re showing signs of depression, talk to your provider right away. Together, you can choose what treatment is best for you.
Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy, too. Sometimes, life takes unexpected turns and that doesn’t stop just because you’re pregnant. Whether it’s the loss of a job, a divorce, or the death of a close family member, it’s okay to feel this way. Recognize that you’re feeling stressed and talk with your provider about ways to lower your stress.
Managing work and pregnancy can also be tricky. Most working women can keep working during their pregnancy, even right up until their due date. If you’re working, planning ahead can help you and your employer get ready for this new phase of your life. Learning how to stay safe and comfortable at work can help you have a healthy pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant, don’t smoke, drink alcohol or abuse drugs. Pregnancy and these things just don’t mix!
Smoking can cause cancer, heart disease and stroke. It also can hurt your baby if you smoke during pregnancy. When you smoke, your baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals that can damage her lungs. Secondhand smoke, or breathing in someone else’s smoke, is bad for your baby, too. Even thirdhand smoke (the smell of cigarettes or cigars that lingers on clothing or in your home) can cause harm.
Alcohol can hurt your baby during pregnancy. Alcohol includes wine, wine coolers, beer and liquor. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy. Alcohol passes directly through the placenta and umbilical cord to your baby. This can cause serious health conditions for your baby, including premature birth, low birthweight, heart defects and miscarriage.
When you’re pregnant, some drugs can hurt you and your baby. Drugs include street drugs, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine, supplements and herbal products. Some drugs can make it hard for couples to get pregnant. Some can cause birth defects or make your baby be born too early and very sick. Some medicines that were safe for you to take before pregnancy may be harmful to your baby. If you’re pregnant, talk to your provider about any medicines you take.
If you need help to quit smoking, drinking alcohol or abusing drugs, tell your health care provider. He can help you find resources and treatment to help you quit.