close   X

What Is Prenatal Care Before Pregnancy?

I think we're ready to start a family! What should I know about health care before I get pregnant?
– Skyler

Ideally, prenatal care should start before a woman gets pregnant. If you're planning a pregnancy, see your health care provider for a complete checkup. Routine testing can make sure you're in good health and that you don't have any illnesses or other conditions that could affect your pregnancy. If you've been having any unusual symptoms, this is a good time to report them.

If you're already being treated for a chronic condition — such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, a heart problem, allergies, lupus, depression, or another condition — talk to your doctor about whether it could affect a pregnancy.

You may need to change or stop some medicines — especially during the first trimester (12 weeks) — to reduce risk to the fetus. Or, you may need to be even more careful about managing your condition. For example, women with diabetes must take extra care to keep their blood sugar levels under control — both before they try to conceive and during pregnancy.

This is also a good time to talk with your health care provider about any habits that could be a risk to your baby, such as drinking alcohol or smoking.

Ask about taking a prenatal vitamin that has folic acid, calcium, and iron. It's especially important for women who plan to become pregnant to take vitamins with folic acid because neural tube defects (problems with the development of the spine and nervous system) happen in the first 28 days of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she's pregnant.

If you or your partner have a family history of a genetic disorder and think either of you may be a carrier, genetic testing may be wise. Talk this over with your health care provider, who can refer you to a genetic counselor if necessary.

It's also a good idea to:

Also, make sure your immunizations are up to date and get your annual flu shot.

If you find out that you're pregnant before you do all of this, don't worry. It's not too late to get the care that you and your baby need.