The Basics: Overview
Health care during pregnancy is called prenatal ("pree-NAY-tuhl") 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 any health problems that may come up. A midwife is a health professional who provides health care during pregnancy and helps women during labor (childbirth).
Get regular prenatal checkups.
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.
Be sure to get all the medical tests that your doctor or midwife recommends. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.
Take steps to have a healthy pregnancy.
To keep you and your baby healthy, it's important that you:
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
- Eat healthy foods and get enough folic acid.
- Stay active.
- Take steps to prevent infections.
Get more tips for a healthy pregnancy:
The Basics: Topics to Discuss
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
- Medicines you take – including vitamins, supplements, and herbs
- Your family’s health history
- Questions you have about pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding
- How to get help buying food if you need it – ask about a program called WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)
- Anything that’s bothering or worrying you
If you aren't feeling well, don't wait to call your doctor or midwife. Find out when to call your doctor or midwife right away.
Make a birth plan.
A birth plan describes what you want to happen during labor and after your baby's birth. It can include:
- 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 you will start breastfeeding after your baby is born
The Basics: Medical Tests
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 (pee) 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.
The Basics: Diabetes 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.
The Basics: Cost and Insurance
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.