Published on May 28, 2014

What is Prenatal Care?

Man and women look at ultrasound image.

What is prenatal care? Prenatal care is the care you give yourself and your baby throughout pregnancy. Proper prenatal care is vital to the health and development of your baby as well as yourself. Consistent checkups and monitoring of your health can help prevent complications, or lead to early detection.

What is Prenatal Care: When Should I Start?

If possible, prenatal care should start before you even become 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 conditions that might affect your pregnancy.

If you do not get a chance to start prenatal care before pregnancy, make sure to start as soon as you suspect you may be pregnant. Before changing or adding new habits to your regimen, speak with your health care provider to make sure it is safe.

Prenatal Care Before Pregnancy

If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your physician about prenatal care that can begin before pregnancy. Some commons steps include:

  • Take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day for at least 3 months
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
  • If you have a medical condition, be sure it is under control
  • Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using
  • Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials at work and at home that could be harmful

Prenatal Care During Pregnancy

Once you become pregnant, there are many do’s and don’ts that your physician may recommend, including:


  • Get early and regular prenatal care, whether this is your first pregnancy or third
  • Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day
  • Ask your doctor before stopping any medicines or starting any new medicines
  • Get a flu shot
  • Eat a variety of fresh, healthy foods with plenty of nutrients
  • Maintain a regular exercise schedule
  • Educate yourself through literature and birth classes


  • Get x-rays – tell your dentist or doctor that you are pregnant so that extra care can be taken
  • Eat uncooked or undercooked meats and fish, or those with high levels of mercury
  • Smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs
  • Use hot tubs or saunas
  • Use harsh chemicals

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