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 pregnant people 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 and get enough folic acid
- Stay physically active
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 personal and family health history, including any chronic (long-term) health problems or surgeries you’ve had
- When you need to get medical care for issues that can come up — like high blood pressure, dizziness, swelling, pain, bleeding, or contractions
- When and where to go for emergency care during your pregnancy
- Any prescription and over-the-counter medicines that you take — as well as vitamins, supplements, and herbs
- Healthy weight gain during pregnancy
These visits are also a great time to discuss:
- Questions you have about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding
- How to get help buying food if you need it — including how to get help from a program called WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)
- Anything that’s bothering or worrying you
If you’re worried about your health during pregnancy, don’t wait to ask for help. Learn more about pregnancy complications and 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 people experience depression during and after pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about your risk for depression and whether you need counseling to help prevent it.
The Basics: Medical Tests
Get important medical tests.
During your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will recommend medical tests that all people need as part of routine prenatal care. You’ll need to get some tests more than once.
These tests give your doctor or midwife important information about you and your baby. The tests will check your blood or urine (pee) for:
- Rh factor (a protein some people have in their blood)
- Hepatitis B [PDF – 859 KB]
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Signs of past rubella infections (German measles)
- Group B strep
If you’re younger than age 25 or have certain risk factors, your doctor or midwife may also check for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Learn more about STDs during pregnancy.
Your doctor or midwife will also check your blood pressure regularly during your pregnancy. They may recommend that you check your own blood pressure at home using a monitor you can buy at a drug store. High blood pressure during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia, a health problem that some pregnant people 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.
The Basics: Diabetes Testing
Get tested for gestational diabetes.
All pregnant people need to get tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some people develop during pregnancy.
Pregnant people at high risk for type 2 diabetes may need to get tested earlier than people 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 — both 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 higher risk for gestational diabetes if you:
- Are overweight or have obesity
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are over age 25
- Are African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, 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.
The Basics: Cost and Insurance
What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover routine prenatal tests. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these tests at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out more.
To learn more, check out these resources:
- Free preventive care for women covered by the Affordable Care Act
- How the Affordable Care Act protects you
- Understanding your health insurance and how to use it [PDF – 698 KB]
If you don’t have health insurance, you can still get help paying for medical care during pregnancy:
- Get connected with free or low-cost services in your state by calling 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229)
- Find a health center near you and ask about prenatal care
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 6 months (through week 28) — and more often during the last 3 months of your pregnancy (after week 28). Learn more about prenatal care.
Get important vaccines.
All pregnant people need whooping cough and flu vaccines (shots). Talk to your doctor or midwife about getting other vaccines to help protect you and your baby. Learn more about vaccines 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.
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 smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs 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 your baby’s health. Talk with your doctor or midwife about ways to help you quit.
Quitting all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (vapes), 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 during your pregnancy.
Using drugs during pregnancy — including opioid pain medicines and marijuana — can also put your baby’s health at risk. If you’re pregnant and using drugs, talk with your doctor right away.
Take Action: Eat Healthy and Stay Active
Get the nutrients you need.
Making healthy food choices and taking supplements as needed can help you gain weight in a healthy way, feel good while you’re pregnant, and have a healthy baby.
- Check out these tips on healthy eating during pregnancy
- Ask your doctor or midwife if you need to take a daily prenatal supplement during pregnancy
- Take a daily supplement with 400 to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid — folic acid is a vitamin that can prevent birth defects
Gain weight in a healthy way.
Gaining a certain amount of weight during pregnancy is important for both you and your baby. Learn how much weight is healthy for you to gain during pregnancy.
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.
Being physically active can help you have a healthier pregnancy. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — like walking, dancing, or swimming.
If you haven’t been active before, start slow and do what you can! Even a 5-minute walk has real health benefits, and you can add more activity over time.
Get more information about physical activity during pregnancy from these resources:
Take Action: Prevent Infections
Take steps to prevent infections.
Follow these tips to prevent infections and help keep your baby safe:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Make safe food choices and prepare food safely
- If you have a cat, learn how to protect yourself from toxoplasmosis (a disease spread by dirty cat litter)
- Get vaccines to protect you from whooping cough and the flu
- Avoid traveling to an area with Zika virus — and if you have to travel to an area with Zika, learn how to protect yourself from Zika virus
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. For example, 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 or birthing 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 year 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:
- Create a safe sleeping area for your baby, without soft objects in the crib.
- Talk with your doctor or midwife about newborn screening tests.
- Learn how to breastfeed your baby.
- Know the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. About 1 in 8 women experience depression after they have a baby. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any questions or concerns.
- Make sure to keep up with postpartum visits to your doctor or midwife.
- Talk to friends and family about helping out after the baby arrives. If you don’t want visitors, people can support you in other ways, like dropping off food.
Take Action: Before You Get Pregnant
Not pregnant yet? Plan ahead.
Planning ahead can help you have a healthier pregnancy. For example:
- Take a daily supplement with 400 to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects. Most multivitamins have 400 mcg of folic acid — check the label to be sure.
- Stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get pregnant.
- If you smoke, quit smoking when you start trying to get pregnant.
Schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife.
- Get your blood pressure checked. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor how you can control it before and during your pregnancy.
- If you have a chronic (long-term) health condition, like diabetes, ask your doctor how you can control it before and during your pregnancy.
- Ask about getting vaccines before you get pregnant.
- Talk with your doctor about your family health history, including any medical conditions you have that could affect a pregnancy.
- Talk with your doctor about your risk for depression during pregnancy and whether you need counseling to help prevent it. Learn about depression during and after pregnancy.
- Talk with your doctor about any medicines you’re taking — both prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines may not be safe to take while you’re pregnant.
- If you take opioid pain medicine, talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself and your baby. Learn more about opioids and pregnancy.