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Health Information For Parents
Prenatal care is health care that a woman gets while pregnant. Going early and regularly for prenatal care can help moms-to-be — and their babies — stay healthy. Regular care lets doctors find and deal with any problems as soon as possible.
It’s important to start prenatal care as early as possible — ideally, before a woman even becomes pregnant.
Pregnant women usually are cared for by:
Any of these care providers is a good choice if you’re healthy and there’s no reason to expect problems with your pregnancy and delivery. However, nurse-midwives do need to have a doctor available for the delivery in case a C-section has to be done.
Your health care provider may refer you to a doctor with expertise in high-risk pregnancies if you:
Even if your pregnancy isn’t high-risk, this may still be a good time to make a change in health care providers if you’re not comfortable with your current doctor.
You should call to schedule your first checkup during the first 6 to 8 weeks of your pregnancy, or when your period is 2 to 4 weeks late. Many health care providers will not schedule the first visit before 8 weeks, unless there is a problem.
If you’re healthy and have no complicating risk factors, you can expect to see your health care provider:
At each checkup, your weight and blood pressure are usually recorded. The size and shape of your uterus may also be measured, starting at the 22nd week, to see whether the fetus is growing and developing normally.
During one or more of your visits, you’ll provide a small urine (pee) sample to be tested for sugar (glucose) and protein.
Glucose screening usually takes place at 12 weeks for women who are at higher risk for gestational diabetes. That includes women who:
All other pregnant women are tested for diabetes at 24 to 28 weeks. They’ll drink a sugary liquid and have blood drawn after an hour for a blood glucose test. If the blood sugar level is high, more testing can confirm whether it’s gestational diabetes.
Many parents-to-be choose to have prenatal tests. These can help health care providers find things like a birth defect or a chromosomal problem in the fetus. Prenatal tests are done in the first, second, and third trimesters.
Some prenatal tests are screening tests that can only reveal the possibility of a problem. Other prenatal tests are diagnostic tests that can accurately find whether a fetus has a specific problem. A screening test sometimes is followed by a diagnostic test. These can include blood tests, amniocentesis, CVS, and ultrasound exams.
Some women worry about medical conditions they already have, such as diabetes, and how they could affect a pregnancy. It’s important to talk with your doctor, who may recommend a change in medicines or treatments that could ease your concerns.
Other conditions that can come with pregnancy include:
works. Insulin helps the body store the sugar in food, which is later converted to energy. In gestational diabetes, a problem with insulin leads to a high blood sugar level.
These conditions are serious but manageable. So it’s important to learn about them and discuss them with your health care provider.
Many pregnant women wonder about weight gain. Generally, women of normal weight should gain about 25–35 pounds during pregnancy. For women who start their pregnancy overweight, total weight gain should be closer to 15–25 pounds. Those who are underweight should gain 28–40 pounds.
Controlling weight gain is harder later in a pregnancy, so try to avoid gaining a lot of weight during the first few months. However, not gaining enough weight can cause problems too, such as poor fetal growth and premature labor.
Pregnancy is not a good time to start a diet, but it is a great time to enjoy healthier foods. Doctors recommend that women add about 300 calories to their daily intake to help nourish the developing baby. Protein should supply most of these calories, but your diet also should include plenty of fresh fruits, grains, and vegetables.
Your health care provider may prescribe a prenatal vitamin to make sure you get enough iron, calcium, and folic acid. It’s also a good time to get regular, low-impact exercise.
For your baby’s sake and yours, it’s important to take especially good care of yourself during your pregnancy. Follow these basics:
Over-the-counter medicines are generally considered off-limits because of their potential effects on the fetus. Most doctors recommend not taking any OTC medicines if possible, but might offer a list of those they think are safe. Be sure to discuss any questions about medicines (including natural remedies, supplements, and vitamins) with your doctor.
When you’re pregnant, it’s also important to avoid foodborne illnesses, such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis, which can be life-threatening to an unborn baby and may cause birth defects or miscarriage. Foods to steer clear of include:
Also avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, tuna steak (bigeye or ahi),and tilefish. Fish and shellfish can be an extremely healthy part of your pregnancy diet because they contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and are high in protein and low in saturated fat. But these types of fish may contain high levels of mercury, which can damage the developing brain of a fetus.
Your doctor may recommend a couple of vaccines during pregnancy. The flu shot can curb flu-related problems for expectant moms, who are at higher risk of problems from the illness. The flu shot is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during any stage of pregnancy. Pregnant women should only get the shot, and not the nasal spray (or mist) form.
The Tdap vaccine (against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is now recommended for all pregnant women in the second half of each pregnancy, regardless of whether they’ve gotten it before or when it was last given. This is because there’s been a rise in pertussis (whooping cough) infections, which can be fatal in newborns who have not yet had their routine vaccinations.
Pregnancy can cause a number of uncomfortable (but not necessarily serious) changes, including:
If you have any of these changes, you’re not alone! Talk to your doctor about ways to ease your discomfort.
When your body is going through physical changes that may be completely new to you, it isn’t always easy to talk to your health care provider. Maybe you’re wondering whether you can have sex or what to do about hemorrhoids or constipation, or maybe you’re feeling feeling worried about the delivery.
You might feel embarrassed to ask these or other questions, but it’s important to do so — and remember, your health care provider has heard them all before. Keep a running list of questions, and take it with you to each visit.
Also, call your doctor right away if you have:
During your pregnancy, you’ll probably get advice from everyone. But staying healthy depends on you – read about the many ways to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Our week-by-week illustrated pregnancy calendar is a detailed guide to all the changes taking place in your baby – and in you!
Moms-to-be have a lot of questions about what’s safe during pregnancy. Keep your sanity by knowing what you can – and can’t – do before your baby arrives.
Every parent-to-be hopes for a healthy baby, but it can be hard not to worry. Find out what tests can keep you informed of your health â and your baby’s â throughout pregnancy.
Find out what tests may be offered to you during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Find out what tests may be offered to you during weeks 13 through 26 of pregnancy.
Find out what tests may be offered to you during weeks 27 through 40 of pregnancy.
Genetic counselors work with people who are either planning to have a baby or are pregnant to determine whether they carry the genes for certain inherited disorders. Find out more.
If you’re a first-time parent, put your fears aside and get the basics in this guide about burping, bathing, bonding, and other baby-care concerns.
It’s best for babies not to be born before they’re due. Learn what you can do to prevent early labor.
If you just found out you’re pregnant, one of the first tests you should expect is a blood-type test. This basic test determines your blood type and Rh factor, which may play an important role in your baby’s health.
Babies who are born premature – before 37 weeks of pregnancy – can have health problems that last their whole lives. Learn ways to prevent early labor and have a healthy pregnancy.
What should women who are planning a pregnancy do before they conceive? Find out here.
Advice and information for expectant and new parents.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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