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Healthy Pregnancy: The Importance of Prenatal Care

Prenatal care is key for a healthy pregnancy

Finding out you are pregnant is exciting news, often followed by many questions about what to expect and what comes next. Whether you are a first-time mom, or have multiple children, seeking prenatal care early in pregnancy is key to a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.

What is prenatal care?

Prenatal care is the healthcare you receive while pregnant. Regular prenatal care throughout your pregnancy helps to catch potential concerns early and reduces the risk of pregnancy and birth complications.

As soon as you suspect you are pregnant, make an appointment with your OB/Gyn. If you don’t have one, call your health insurance to determine which obstetricians are covered by your insurance. (If you don’t have health insurance, reach out to your local community health center or county health department for your health care coverage options.)

You can expect to see your healthcare provider often and regularly throughout your pregnancy. Typically, you will be scheduled for your first prenatal appointment when you are at least 8 weeks pregnant. For pregnancies without complications, prenatal visits are usually scheduled as follows:

  • Up to week 28: 1 prenatal visit a month
  • Weeks 28 to 36: 1 prenatal visit every 2 weeks
  • Weeks 36 to 40: 1 prenatal visit every week

Your doctor will want to see you more often if you had any preexisting health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure before you became pregnant, if you are over the age of 35, or if problems develop during your pregnancy.

What to expect at your prenatal visits

At your first prenatal visit, your doctor or healthcare provider will review your medical history. She likely will perform a complete physical examination as well as urine and blood tests during this visit.

At each visit, your healthcare provider will check you and your baby. She will talk with you about the things you can do help you and your baby stay healthy, such as eating healthy foods, staying active and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy. Your healthcare provider may also order blood tests and imaging tests, such as an ultrasound.

Each prenatal visit is important for a healthy pregnancy

Even if you are farther along in your pregnancy, prenatal care is still important. It is not too late to begin to seek care, so call your doctor today to schedule a visit. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and have birth complications. Seeing your doctor regularly helps ensure you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Kim Tustison, MD is a UCR Women’s Health OB/Gyn.

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