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Quick Facts

Prenatal Care

(Medical Care During Pregnancy)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
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"Pre" means before, and "natal" means birth. So prenatal care is medical care you get before you give birth. Prenatal care includes routine doctor visits and routine tests. The doctor checks your health and the health of your developing baby.

Should I see a doctor before I try to get pregnant?

It's a good idea to see a doctor before you get pregnant. The doctor can make sure your pregnancy will be as safe as possible and help you prepare to get pregnant. Your doctor will:

If you have risk factors for inherited diseases, the doctor may recommend doing blood tests as part of genetic screening Genetic Screening Genetic screening is used to determine whether a couple is at increased risk of having a baby with a hereditary genetic disorder. Hereditary genetic disorders are disorders of chromosomes or... read more . The tests look to see if you or your partner carry genes for diseases you could pass on to your child. Some doctors do these tests on everyone because people don't always have risk factors.

If you decide to try to get pregnant, do the following to give your baby the best chance of being healthy:

What happens at my first doctor visit?

You’ll see your doctor once you're about 6 to 8 weeks pregnant. The weeks of pregnancy are counted from the first day of your last menstrual period.

At this visit, your doctor will:

What medical care will I need during my pregnancy?

You'll see the doctor more often as your pregnancy goes along. After the first visit, you’ll see your doctor:

  • Every 4 weeks until 28 weeks of pregnancy

  • Every 2 weeks until 36 weeks

  • Then once a week until delivery

At each visit, your doctor will:

  • Weigh you

  • Take your blood pressure

  • Look at your ankles for swelling

  • Measure your uterus

  • Check your baby’s heartbeat

  • Check a urine sample for sugar

At about 16 to 20 weeks, your doctor will do an ultrasound to check your fetus's:

  • Heartbeat

  • Sex

  • Size and growth

The ultrasound can also tell:

  • Whether you're pregnant with twins or multiples

  • Whether your fetus has any possible issues, including birth defects or problems with the placenta (the organ that feeds your fetus)

Depending on the ultrasound results, your doctor may do more ultrasounds later in your pregnancy.

X-rays aren't a regular part of pregnancy care. If you need an x-ray, you can get one safely by using a lead apron to shield your belly.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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Causes of High Health Care Costs
Health care costs in the United States are far higher than in many other developed nations. Several factors are responsible Which of the following is NOT one of the largest contributors to the high cost of health care in the United States?
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