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 see 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 may including taking prenatal vitamins and folic acid.
The goal of prenatal care is to monitor the progress of your pregnancy and check for any problems that may arise. Women who get prenatal care have healthier babies and are less likely to have pregnancy-related problems.
Routine Prenatal Care: Your First Pregnancy Visit
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 eight 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 Pap smear to check for cervical cancer 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, if you are not already taking them.
Routine Prenatal Care: Subsequent Visits
After your first prenatal visit, you will schedule one prenatal visit every four 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 may also have blood tests, urine tests, and/or ultrasounds.
At each prenatal visit, you should discuss any questions or concerns you have with your doctor.
Prenatal Diagnostic and Screening Tests
The following table describes the most common prenatal tests used to monitor your pregnancy and identify problems.
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm, MD; Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 04/2013 -
- Update Date: 04/24/2013 -