Krisha McCoy, MS
Every mother-to-be needs prenatal care. Prenatal care is the regular healthcare you will receive during pregnancy from your doctor, midwife, or other healthcare professional. Prenatal care should begin as early as possible, ideally even before you become pregnant. You may hear this called a preconception visit. At this visit, your doctor will talk about any chronic medical problems and medications. Additional testing may be recommended. Your doctor will discuss your weight gain and exercise.
You will also learn about nutrition, which will likely including taking prenatal vitamins and
The goal of prenatal care is to monitor the progress of your pregnancy and check for any problems that may occur. Women who get prenatal care have healthier babies and are less likely to have pregnancy-related problems.
You should call to schedule a prenatal visit with your doctor as soon as you realize you are pregnant. After speaking with you, the doctor’s office may suggest seeing you soon, or may suggest a first visit around 8 weeks after your last menstrual period.
This first visit will include a physical examination. You will be weighed and have your blood pressure checked. You will also have a pelvic exam, and a
to check for
and infections. You will provide blood and urine samples for a variety of tests, including tests for infections and anemia.
Your due date will be estimated. You will be advised to start taking prenatal vitamins and
folic acid, if you are not already taking them.
After your first prenatal visit, you will schedule 1 prenatal visit every 4 weeks until about 28 weeks in your pregnancy. During weeks 28-36, you will schedule visits about every 2-3 weeks. After week 36, you will probably see your doctor every week. Sometimes, there are alternate visits with a clinical provider and with a nurse. The visits are more frequent if you have a high-risk pregnancy.
At these visits, your doctor will weigh you, check your blood pressure, measure and feel your growing abdomen, and check for swelling. After week 12, your doctor will listen to your baby’s heartbeat. You will also have blood tests, urine tests, and
ultrasounds. A screening for gestational diabetes will be done in the second trimester. A screening for group B streptococcal disease will be done at 35-27 weeks.
At each prenatal visit, you should discuss any questions or concerns you have with your doctor.
The following table describes the most common prenatal tests used to monitor your pregnancy and identify problems.
Cervical cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 21, 2016. Accessed April 27, 2016.
Parmet S, Lynn C, et al. Prenatal Care.
Prenatal care and tests. US Department of Health and Human Services Women's Health website. Available at:
http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/prenatal-care-tests.html. Updated September 27, 2010. Accessed April 26, 2016.
Prenatal testing. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
http://www.americanpregnancy.org/prenataltesting. Accessed April 26, 2016.
Prenatal tests. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/medical/prenatal_tests.html. Updated June 2013. Accessed April 26, 2016.
Routine tests in pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq133.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121227T1019449259. Published January 2016. Accessed April 26, 2016.
Last reviewed April 2016 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
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