Pregnancy Care and Resources

Whether it's care you get at the doctor or how you take care of yourself, these resources can help you through your pregnancy.


Care While You're Pregnant

Health Care Visits

Regular care from your doctor while you're pregnant is key to the health of you and your baby. You should go to all of these visits, even if you feel fine. They will help you track the progress of your pregnancy and keep your baby healthy. If you're having a low-risk pregnancy, your schedule will look like this:

  • First Visit - Schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as you think you're pregnant to confirm your pregnancy. At this appointment, you can expect to:
    • Review your health history, current health status, and medications
    • Find out your due date
    • Go over possible health risks
    • Have blood and urine tests and a pap smear to make sure you're healthy and rule out anemia and infections
    • Plan out your future appointments
  • Weeks 4 to 28 - 1 visit a month
  • Weeks 28 to 36 - 2 visits a month
  • Week 36 to Giving Birth - 1 visit a week

Check our Preventive Care Guidelines to see more recommended care and our wellness benefits for more of what's covered for you during your pregnancy.

Prenatal Tests

During your appointments, you will have certain tests done to make sure you're healthy and help you know what to expect.

Ultrasound

Also called a sonogram, this test is usually done at 18-20 weeks to:

  • Make sure your baby's growing at a normal rate
  • Confirm your due date
  • Record the baby's heartbeat
  • Check for more than one baby
  • Find out your baby's gender if you want

Glucose Screening

This test is usually done at 12 weeks for high-risk pregnancies and at 24-28 weeks for low-risk pregnancies and will tell you if you've developed gestational diabetes.

Blood Tests

Regular blood tests can be done at any point during your pregnancy, as recommended by your doctor, to:

  • Determine blood type
  • Screen for:
    • Anemia
    • Diabetes
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Sexually transmitted diseases

Urine Tests

Your doctor will ask you for urine samples, usually at each of your checkups, to test for:

  • Excess protein bacteria
  • Ketones, which can tell you if your body's not producing enough insulin
  • Signs of gestational diabetes

Medication to Avoid

Make sure you talk to your doctor about the meds you're currently taking. Certain prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs could harm your baby.

Meds to Avoid

  • Accutane® (isotretinoin, Amnesteem, and Claravis)
  • Soriatane® (acitretin)
  • Thalomid® (thalidomide)

Over-the-Counter Drugs to Avoid

  • Aspirin
  • Advil® (ibuprofen)
  • Herbal supplements

Health Problems

If you have a preexisiting health problem or develop a new one during your pregnancy, you may need more care. Health problems that can occur during pregnancy include:

Blood Pressure Related Conditions

While your blood pressure is always an important part of your overall health, when you're pregnant, it becomes even more important to monitor it. High blood pressure can constrict the blood vessels in your uterus that supply your baby with oxygen and nutrients.

Chronic Hypertension

This is high blood pressure before you become pregnant. If you have it, it won't go away after you deliver.

There are usually no signs, the only way to diagnose it is with blood pressure monitoring.

Your doctor may prescribe medication or liestyle changes. If you're already on hypertension meds, talk to your doctor before trying to conceive. ACE inhibitors, a common kind of blood pressure meds, can be bad for your baby.

Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension (PIH)

Some women develop high blood pressure about 20 weeks into their pregnancy. PIH will usually go away after you deliver.

There are usually no signs, the only way to diagnose it is with blood pressure monitoring.

PIH can be controlled with meds during pregnancy.

Preeclampsia

This is high blood pressure and protein in your urine that usually develops after 30 weeks. 25% of women who have PIH develop this too.

There are usually no signs, the only way to diagnose it is with blood pressure monitoring.

Preeclampsia can be controlled with meds during pregnancy.

HELLP syndrome

This is a variation of preeclampsia that's diagnosed by blood tests. It stands for the conditions you develop:

  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Low platelets

Most women with HELLP have high blood pressure, and other symptoms include fatigue, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, and swelling.

The only treatment is to deliver your baby. HELLP is very serious and requires care from a doctor.

Gestational Diabetes

Even if you don't have diabetes before you get pregnant, you can develop gestational diabetes. It will go away after you have your baby, but during your pregnancy, you may be required to follow a special diet, exercise, or take insulin.

Environmental Risk

Certain substances can be harmful to your baby, raising the risk of birth defects and miscarriage. Chemicals to avoid include:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Lead in water or paint
  • Some cleaners
  • Pesticides
  • Mercury in tuna and other fish
  • Cat litter boxes

Talk to your doctor about how to avoid these chemicals and what to do if you come in contact with any of them.

Chicken Pox

While most women are immune if they've had chicken pox or the vaccine before, it can be dangerous if you catch it while pregnant. Tell your doctor right away if you come in contact with someone who has it or if you believe you have it.

HIV/AIDS

You can pass HIV/AIDS to your baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery if you already have it. You can take meds to protect your baby during your pregnancy, just talk to your doctor about it.

Sexually Trasmitted Infections (STIs)

If you have an STI, it can cause your baby to be born blind, deaf, or even stillborn. Medication can usually help protect your baby during pregnancy and delivery. Tell your doctor right away if you have an STI or develop one while you are pregnant.

Signs and Symptoms of Early Labor

Premature labor begins before you've finished 37 weeks of pregnancy, and babies born this early can have lifelong or life-threatening health problems.

What Happens

If you go into premature labor, you will likely be given meds to delay or stop it. In some cases, it can be delayed long enough to transport you to a hospital that has a neonatal intensive care unit. You may also be given medications that can improve the baby's health if they come early.

Warning Signs

  • Contractions - Your abdomen will tighten like a fist every 10 minutes or more.
  • Change in Vaginal Discharge - You might leak fluid or bleed from your vagina.
  • Pelvic Pressure - This might feel like your baby is pushing down.
  • Cramps - These might feel like your period or like abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea.
  • Backache - You might feel a low, full backache.

What to Do

Call your doctor or go to the hospital right away if you're going into labor or have any of the warning signs. They may tell you to:

  • Come into the office or go to the hospital for a checkup
  • Stop what you're doing and rest on your side for an hour
  • Drink 2 to 3 glasses of water or juice

If your symptoms get worse or do not go away after an hour, call your doctor back or go to the hospital. If the symptoms improve, relax for the rest of the day.


Taking Care of Yourself

Discomforts

Some parts of pregnancy can be uncomfortable, and that's normal. While you should still tell your doctor about small discomforts, here are some tips that can help:

Nausea & Vomiting

  • Eat small meals regularly
  • Eat carbs, especially in the morning after you get up
  • Avoid greasy and spicy foods

Fatigue

  • Rest or nap when you can
  • Ask for help with tasks
  • Go to bed earlier than you would've before your pregnancy

Dizziness

  • Stand up slowly
  • Hold onto walls or other supporting structures for balance
  • Ask your doctor about taking a vitamin supplement

Hemorrhoids

  • Drink plenty of water and juice
  • Eat more fruit and veggies for fiber
  • Ask your doctor about medication

Swelling & Fluid Retention

  • Lay on one of your sides
  • Elevate your legs while resting
  • Wear support hose

Healthy Diet and Exercise

Eat a Balanced Diet

While it's normal to have crazy cravings while you're pregnant, it's also important to get plenty of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Together, you and your baby have different nutritional needs than you do separately.

It's less like eating for 2, and more like eating for yourself and 1/8. You'll need to get around an extra 300 calories a day. For example, if you'd normally drink a 10-oz. glass of juice, now you should drink an 11- or 12-oz. glass.

Most pregnant women need about:

  • 1,800 calories per day during the first trimester
  • 2,200 calories per day during the second trimester
  • 2,400 calories per day during the third trimester

ChooseMyPlate.gov can help you make the right food choices, and you can enter in your info to create customized daily food recommendations in a helpful checklist for each stage of your pregnancy.

You should also be careful when eating out because you'll be more susceptible to foodborne illness while you're pregnant.

Take a Prenatal Vitamin

Pregnant women need more folic acid, iron, and calcium. Folic acid, a B vitamin, can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken early in your pregnancy.

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day during early pregnancy as part of a healthy diet. Avoid any supplements that give you more than 100% of the daily value for any vitamin or mineral.

Keep Moving

While you may not always feel like it, moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day during pregnancy can benefit both you and your baby. It helps you prepare your body for labor, and it will help you feel better before and after birth.

Safe Exercises to Try
  • Walking
  • Riding a stationary bike
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
Activities to Avoid
  • Bouncing
  • Leaping
  • Too much up and down movement
  • Exercise that could make you lose your balance
  • Laying flat on your back after the first trimester
  • Anything where you could get hit in the stomach
  • Sitting in saunas, hot tubs, or steam rooms

Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine, drink plenty of water, don't get overheated, and be sure to listen to your body.

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