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Prenatal Care 

Introduction
Prenatal care is medical care for women both before and during pregnancy.  Prenatal care is used to ensure a healthy pregnancy for both the mother and developing baby.  Prenatal care can help detect and treat problems promptly, prevent complications, and refer women to appropriate specialists when necessary.  In the United States, prenatal care has resulted in a reduced number of maternal deaths, miscarriages, and birth defects.

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Treatment
It is recommended that all women who are considering becoming pregnant visit their doctor for a pre-pregnancy healthcare check-up.  Otherwise, women should contact their doctor’s as soon as they suspect they are pregnant.  Receiving prenatal care is especially important for women with high-risk pregnancies.
 
At your first visit, your doctor will assess your overall health and review your medical history.  Bring a list of your current medications for your doctor to review.  In some instances, certain medications may be harmful to a developing baby and are substituted with a similar medication that is not.  Your blood pressure, height, and weight will be measured.  Your doctor may conduct a pelvic examination.  Blood tests and urine tests may be conducted as well.  Your doctor will recommend prenatal vitamins, including folic acid.  Folic acid can help significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
 
Your doctor will determine an appointment schedule to closely monitor your pregnancy.  Generally, monthly appointments are used for the first six months of pregnancy.  Appointments are usually every two weeks during the seventh and eighth months and weekly in the ninth month of pregnancy.  Women with high-risk pregnancies will have more frequent appointments.
 
Your blood pressure, blood, and urine will be tested periodically throughout your pregnancy.  Routine ultrasound testing is most commonly performed at about the 20th week and 34th week of pregnancy.  Some doctors may use ultrasound more frequently than others.  Ultrasound is also used if a problem is suspected.
 
Prenatal testing helps to ensure that problems in a pregnancy receive prompt attention. It enables you to communicate with your doctor and discuss any concerns.  You should follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and attend all of your appointments.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.