Why is prenatal care important?

Getting early and regular prenatal care improves the chances of a healthy pregnancy. It's important to remember that having a healthy pregnancy is one of the best ways to have a healthy baby.

It is essential to maintain regular medical care during pregnancy (including regular check-ups and prenatal testing).

Good prenatal care can help keep expectant mothers and their baby healthy, as well as alert the health care provider of any potential health concerns. Early detection and treatment can remedy many problems and prevent others. Expectant mothers should contact their health plan to see if it has any special programs for them.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Proper prenatal care can set up you—and your fetus—for a successful start to life.

During pregnancy, your friends and family are by your side—and so is your obstetrician. Plan to visit your obstetrician once or twice a month for the first eight months, and then every week for the final month.

At these checkups, your doctor will monitor your health closely. Common underlying health problems can include hypertension and diabetes, which not only put your health at risk, but can also restrict blood flow to the placenta, thereby endangering the fetus.

Your doctor will also screen for infectious diseases that might pass to the fetus, such as hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As you go into your final trimester, most doctors will also give you vaccines for common illnesses, including flu shots and the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine, so your baby can be born with immunity.

Prenatal visits are also crucial chances for your doctor to find any potential birth defects. Common problems include issues with the kidneys, spine or heart; these can, if caught early, potentially be treated in utero.

Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

Prenatal care is important to:

  • Provide education about healthy behaviors during pregnancy.
  • Monitor maternal and fetal wellbeing throughout the pregnancy.
  • Detect early signs of potential complications of the pregnancy.
  • Provide anticipatory guidance to the woman and family.

During the first prenatal visit, you can expect your doctor to:

  • Ask about your health history including diseases, operations or prior pregnancies.
  • Ask about your family's health history.
  • Do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test.
  • Take your blood and urine for lab work.
  • Check your blood pressure, height and weight.
  • Calculate your due date.
  • Answer your questions.
  • At the first visit, you should ask questions and discuss any issues related to your pregnancy. Find out all you can about how to stay healthy.

Later prenatal visits will probably be shorter. Your doctor will check on your health and make sure the baby is growing as expected. Most prenatal visits will include:

  • Checking your blood pressure
  • Measuring your weight gain
  • Measuring your abdomen to check your baby's growth (once you begin to show)
  • Checking the baby's heart rate

While you're pregnant, you also will have some routine tests. Some tests are suggested for all women, such as blood work to check for anemia, your blood type, HIV and other factors. Other tests might be offered based on your age, personal or family health history, your ethnic background or the results of routine tests you have had. Visit the Healthy Pregnancy section of our web site for more details on prenatal care and tests.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.