Prior to modern medicine, many mothers and their babies did not survive pregnancy and the birth process. Today, good prenatal care can significantly improve the quality of the pregnancy and the outcome for the infant and mother.
Good prenatal care includes:
Women who choose to have an abortion usually do so in the very early stages of the pregnancy (usually before 12 weeks gestation). Abortion is legal through the 24th week of pregnancy. The abortion procedure, however, becomes more difficult with advancing gestational age, and many providers do not perform pregnancy terminations in the second trimester.
Women who plan to continue a pregnancy to term need to choose a health care provider who will provide prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum services. Provider choices in most communities include:
Family health care providers, or generalists, can help manage women throughout normal pregnancies and deliveries. If there is a problem with the pregnancy, your doctor will refer you to a specialist.
The goals of prenatal care are to:
Women who are considering becoming pregnant, or who are pregnant, should eat a balanced diet and take a vitamin and mineral supplement that includes at least 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of folic acid. Folic acid is needed to decrease the risk of certain birth defects (such as spina bifida). Sometimes higher doses are prescribed if a woman has a higher than normal risk of these conditions.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid all medications, unless the medications are necessary and recommended by a prenatal health care provider. Women should discuss all medication use with their providers.
Pregnant women should avoid all alcohol and drug use and limit caffeine intake. They should not smoke. They should avoid herbal preparations and common over-the-counter medications that may interfere with normal development of the growing baby.
Prenatal visits are typically scheduled:
Weight gain, blood pressure, fundal height, and the baby's heart beat (as appropriate) are usually measured and recorded at each visit, and routine urine screening tests may be performed.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY
It is urgent that you call your health care provider if you are currently pregnant and you have any amount of vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, physical or severe emotional trauma, or your water breaks (membranes rupture).