Have a Healthy Pregnancy

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Health care during pregnancy is called prenatal care. Getting prenatal care can help you have a healthier baby. It also lowers the risk of your baby being born too early, which can lead to health problems for your baby.

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 childbirth.

Get regular prenatal checkups.

Schedule a visit with your doctor or midwife as soon as you know you're pregnant – or if you think you might be. You'll need many checkups with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy. Don't miss any of these appointments – they're 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 physically active.

Get more tips for a healthy pregnancy:

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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, childbirth, 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're not feeling well, don't wait to call your doctor or midwife. Learn more about when to call your doctor or midwife.

Make a birth plan.

A birth plan describes what you want to happen during childbirth and after your baby's birth. It can include:

  • Where you'd like to give birth – for example, at a hospital or birthing center
  • Who you want with you for support (like your partner, family member, or close friend) before, during, and after childbirth
  • How you want to manage pain during childbirth
  • Who you want to help you make important medical decisions during childbirth
  • Your plan to breastfeed after your baby is born

Talk with your doctor about depression.

Many women are at increased risk for depression during and after pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about your risk for depression and whether you need counseling to help prevent it.

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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 or urine (pee) will be checked for:

If you're younger than age 24 or have certain risk factors, your doctor or midwife may also check for other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Learn more about STDs during pregnancy.

Your doctor or midwife will also check your blood pressure regularly during your pregnancy. High blood pressure during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia (“pree-ih-KLAMP-see-uh”), a health problem that some pregnant women develop. Learn more about preventing preeclampsia.

Talk about your family history.

Share your personal and family health history with your doctor or midwife. 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.

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The Basics: Diabetes Testing

Get tested for diabetes.

  • All pregnant women need to get tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women at high risk for type 2 diabetes may need to get tested earlier than women at normal risk. Find out about your risk for type 2 diabetes.

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 you and your baby.

You're 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 Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander
  • Had gestational diabetes during an earlier pregnancy
  • Have had a baby weighing over 9 pounds
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

You can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes by eating healthy and staying active during pregnancy.

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The Basics: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, 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.
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Take Action!

Take Action: Get Prenatal Care

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

Get regular prenatal care.

Plan on getting a prenatal checkup at least once a month for the first 7 months (up to week 31) – and more often during the last 2 months of your pregnancy (after week 32). Learn more about prenatal care.

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 shots for adults

Take charge of your health care.

Speak up and ask questions when you're with your doctor or midwife. 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.

Keep track of your baby’s movement.

Sometime between 16 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, you'll 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.

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Take Action: Don't Smoke, Drink Alcohol, or Use Drugs

Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs.

One of the best ways to protect you and your baby is to stop using tobacco and drinking alcohol before you become pregnant – or as soon as possible during your pregnancy.

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

Quitting all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is best for you and your baby.

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:

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Take Action: Eat Healthy and Stay Active

Eat healthy foods.

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

Gain weight in a healthy way.

Gaining a certain amount of weight during pregnancy is important for your health and your baby's health. Learn how much weight is healthy for you to gain during pregnancy.

Remember, pregnancy is not a good time to lose weight. Even if you're overweight, you still need to gain some weight for your baby to grow. 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 a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like walking fast, dancing, or swimming. 

Get more information about exercise during pregnancy from these resources:

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Take Action: Prevent Infections

Take steps to prevent infections.

To prevent infections and help keep your unborn baby safe:

Learn more about preventing infections during pregnancy.

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Take Action: Get Support and Plan Ahead

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. Take steps to help you prepare for your new baby:

Read more about preparing for your baby.

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Take Action: Before You Get Pregnant

Not pregnant yet? Plan ahead.

Schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife.

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