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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 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 fetal heart beats (as appropriate) are usually measured and recorded at each visit, and routine urine screening tests are performed.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
References Return to top
Johnson RBT, Gregory KD, Niebyl JR. Preconception and prenatal care: part of the continuum. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics - Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 5.
Simpson JL, Holzgreve W. Genetic counseling and genetic screening. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics - Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 6.
Niebyl JR, Simpson JL. Drugs and environmental agents in pregnancy and lactation: embryology, teratology, epidemiology. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics - Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 8.
Richards DS. Ultrasound for pregnancy dating, growth, and the diagnosis of fetal malformations. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics - Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 9.
Alto WA. No need for glycosuria/proteinuria screen in pregnant women. J Fam Pract. 2005 Nov;54(11):978-83.
Rhode MA, Shapiro H, Jones OW. Indicated vs. routine prenatal urine chemical reagent strip testing. J Reprod Med. 2007 Mar;52(3):214-9.Update Date: 8/17/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; andSusan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington ; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.