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Have a Healthy Pregnancy

Content last updated on:
December 03, 2014

The Basics

It’s important to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy. To keep you and your baby healthy:

  • See your doctor or midwife regularly.
  • Get important medical tests.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Eat healthy foods and get enough folic acid.
  • Stay active.
  • Take steps to prevent infections.

To get more tips for a healthy pregnancy:

See your doctor or midwife regularly.
Schedule a visit with your doctor or midwife as soon as you know you're pregnant, or think you might be. You'll need many checkups with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy. Don't miss any – they are all important. 

Health care during pregnancy is called prenatal ("pree-NAY-tuhl") care. A midwife is a health professional who provides prenatal care and helps women during childbirth.

Know the benefits of prenatal care.
Getting prenatal care can help you have a healthier baby. It also lowers the risk of your baby being born too early.

During prenatal care, your doctor or midwife can find health problems. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.

Make the most of each visit with the doctor or midwife.
Talk with your doctor or midwife about:

  • Your medical history, including surgeries you've had and medicines you take
  • Your family’s health history
  • Questions you have about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding
  • How to get help buying food if you need it (ask about a program called WIC)
  • Anything that’s bothering or worrying you

Make a plan for the birth you want, including:

  • Where you would like to give birth – at a hospital, birthing center, or at home
  • Who you want with you for support (like trusted family members or close friends) before, during, and after your labor
  • How you want to manage pain during labor
  • Who you want to help you make important medical decisions during your labor
  • How to start breastfeeding after your baby is born

Find out when to call your doctor or midwife right away.

Get important medical tests.
During your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will recommend medical tests that all women need as part of routine prenatal care. Some tests need to be done more than once.

These tests give your doctor or midwife important information about you and your baby. Your blood and urine will be checked for:

If you are younger than age 25 or have certain risk factors, your doctor or midwife may also check for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Talk about your family history.
Share your personal and family health history with your doctor. This will help you and your doctor or midwife decide whether you need any other tests, like genetic testing. Find out more about genetic testing.

Get tested for diabetes.

  • Pregnant women at high risk for type 2 diabetes need to get tested at the first prenatal visit. Find out about your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • All pregnant women need to get tested for gestational (“jes-TAY-shon-al”) diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy.

What do I need to know about gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can lead to health problems for moms and babies – during and after pregnancy. It’s important to get tested so that you and your doctor or midwife can take steps to protect your health and your baby’s health.

You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are over age 25
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander
  • Had gestational diabetes during an earlier pregnancy
  • Have had a baby weighing over 9 pounds

You can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes by eating healthy and staying active during pregnancy. Use these questions to ask your doctor about getting screened for gestational diabetes.

Learn more about gestational diabetes [PDF - 372 KB].

What about cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover routine prenatal tests. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these tests at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.

To learn about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

You can also get help from your state to pay for medical care during pregnancy. There are programs that give medical care, information, advice, and other services that are important for a healthy pregnancy. To find out about the program in your state:

  • Call 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229).
  • For information in Spanish, call 1-866-783-2645.
Take Action!

Take Action!

There are lots of things you can do today to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Get regular prenatal care.
Plan on getting a prenatal checkup at least every month for the first 7 months, and more often during the last 2 months of your pregnancy.

Get important shots.
The whooping cough and flu shots are recommended for all pregnant women. Talk to your doctor or midwife about getting other shots (vaccines) to help protect you and your baby. Learn more about important shots

Take charge of your health care.
Speak up and ask questions when you are at a medical visit. When you play an active role in your health care, you help make sure that you and your growing family will get good care. Find out how to take charge of your health care.

Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
One of the best ways to protect your health and your baby's health is to stop smoking and drinking alcohol before you become pregnant – or as soon as possible during your pregnancy.

There is no safe amount to drink or smoke while you are pregnant. Both can harm the health of your baby. Talk with your doctor or midwife about ways to help you quit.

Secondhand smoke (smoke from other people’s cigarettes) can also put you and your baby at risk for health problems. Stay away from cigarette smoke.

Learn more:

Eat healthy foods.
Making healthy food choices during pregnancy can help you gain weight in a healthy way, feel good while you are pregnant, and have a healthy baby.

Remember, pregnancy is not a good time to lose weight. Even if you are overweight, you still need to gain some weight for your baby to grow well. Ask your doctor or midwife how much weight is healthy for you to gain. 

Stay active. 
Being physically active may help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast, dancing, or swimming. Do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time. 

Get more information about exercise during pregnancy:

Take steps to prevent infections.
To prevent infections and help keep your unborn baby safe:

Learn more about preventing infections during pregnancy

Keep track of your baby’s movement.
After about 28 weeks of pregnancy, you will probably start to feel your baby move. Keep track of how often your baby moves. If you think your baby is moving less than usual, call your doctor or midwife.

Ask for help if you need it.
Being pregnant may be tiring or stressful at times. Extra support from loved ones can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Family members or friends can:

  • Provide emotional support so you feel less stressed
  • Visit the doctor or midwife with you
  • Go with you to a breastfeeding class
  • Change the litter box if you have a cat
  • Help prepare for the baby’s arrival by setting up furniture

Think about what you need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Plan ahead for the first few weeks with your new baby.
Having a new baby is exciting, but it can be stressful. 

Not pregnant yet? Plan ahead.

Schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife.

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