It’s important to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy. To keep you and your baby healthy:
- See your doctor or midwife regularly.
- Get important medical tests.
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
- Eat healthy foods and get enough folic acid.
- Stay active.
- Take steps to prevent infections.
To get more tips for a healthy pregnancy:
- If you just learned you are pregnant, find out what to do next.
- Check out these Pregnancy Do’s and Don’ts [PDF – 96 KB].
See your doctor or midwife regularly.
Schedule a visit with your doctor or midwife as soon as you know you’re pregnant, or think you might be. You’ll need many checkups with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy. Don’t miss any – they are all important.
Health care during pregnancy is called prenatal (“pree-NAY-tuhl”) care. A midwife is a health professional who provides prenatal care and helps women during childbirth.
Know the benefits of prenatal care.
Getting prenatal care can help you have a healthier baby. It also lowers the risk of your baby being born too early.
During prenatal care, your doctor or midwife can find health problems. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.
Make the most of each visit with the doctor or midwife.
Talk with your doctor or midwife about:
- Your medical history, including surgeries you’ve had and medicines you take
- Your family’s health history
- Questions you have about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding
- How to get help buying food if you need it (ask about a program called WIC)
- Anything that’s bothering or worrying you
Make a plan for the birth you want, including:
- Where you would like to give birth – at a hospital, birthing center, or at home
- Who you want with you for support (like trusted family members or close friends) before, during, and after your labor
- How you want to manage pain during labor
- Who you want to help you make important medical decisions during your labor
- How to start breastfeeding after your baby is born
Find out when to call your doctor or midwife right away.
Talk about your family history.
Share your personal and family health history with your doctor. This will help you and your doctor or midwife decide whether you need any other tests, like genetic testing. Find out more about genetic testing.
Get important medical tests.
During your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will recommend medical tests that all women need as part of routine prenatal care. Some tests need to be done more than once.
These tests give your doctor or midwife important information about you and your baby. Your blood and urine will be checked for:
- Blood type and Rh factor
- Hepatitis B [PDF – 859 KB]
- Urinary tract infection
- Signs of past infections with Rubella (German measles)
If you are younger than age 25 or have certain risk factors, your doctor or midwife may also check for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Get tested for diabetes.
- Pregnant women at high risk for type 2 diabetes need to get tested at the first prenatal visit. Find out about your risk for type 2 diabetes.
- All pregnant women need to get tested for gestational (“jes-TAY-shon-al”) diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy.
What do I need to know about gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can lead to health problems for moms and babies – during and after pregnancy. It’s important to get tested so that you and your doctor or midwife can take steps to protect your health and your baby’s health.
You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are over age 25
- Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander
- Had gestational diabetes during an earlier pregnancy
- Have had a baby weighing over 9 pounds
You can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes by eating healthy and staying active during pregnancy. Use these questions to ask your doctor about getting screened for gestational diabetes.
Learn more about gestational diabetes [PDF – 372 KB].
There are lots of things you can do today to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Get regular prenatal care.
Plan on getting a prenatal checkup at least every month for the first 7 months, and more often during the last 2 months of your pregnancy.
Get important shots.
The whooping cough and flu shots are recommended for all pregnant women. Talk to your doctor or midwife about getting other shots (vaccines) to help protect you and your baby. Learn more about important shots.
Take charge of your health care.
Speak up and ask questions when you are at a medical visit. When you play an active role in your health care, you help make sure that you and your growing family will get good care. Find out how to take charge of your health care.
Keep track of your baby’s movement.
After about 28 weeks of pregnancy, you will probably start to feel your baby move. Keep track of how often your baby moves. If you think your baby is moving less than usual, call your doctor or midwife.
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
One of the best ways to protect your health and your baby’s health is to stop smoking and drinking alcohol before you become pregnant – or as soon as possible during your pregnancy.
There is no safe amount to drink or smoke while you are pregnant. Both can harm the health of your baby. Talk with your doctor or midwife about ways to help you quit.
Secondhand smoke (smoke from other people’s cigarettes) can also put you and your baby at risk for health problems. Stay away from cigarette smoke.
Eat healthy foods.
Making healthy food choices during pregnancy can help you gain weight in a healthy way, feel good while you are pregnant, and have a healthy baby.
- Check out these tips on healthy eating during pregnancy.
- Talk with your doctor or midwife about your nutritional needs during pregnancy. Ask if you need to take a daily prenatal vitamin.
Remember, pregnancy is not a good time to lose weight. Even if you are overweight, you still need to gain some weight for your baby to grow well. Ask your doctor or midwife how much weight is healthy for you to gain.
Being physically active may help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast, dancing, or swimming. Do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Get more information about exercise during pregnancy:
- Stay Active During Pregnancy: Quick tips
- Fit for Two: Tips for Pregnancy
Take steps to prevent infections.
To prevent infections and help keep your unborn baby safe:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid certain foods, such as lunchmeat and soft cheeses [PDF – 125 KB].
- Prepare food safely. Don’t forget to rinse fruits and vegetables.
- Have someone else empty your cat’s litter box. Dirty cat litter has germs that can harm pregnant women. If you must clean the box, wear gloves and wash your hands.
Learn more about preventing infections during pregnancy.
Ask for help if you need it.
Being pregnant may be tiring or stressful at times. Extra support from loved ones can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Family members or friends can:
- Provide emotional support so you feel less stressed
- Visit the doctor or midwife with you
- Go with you to a breastfeeding class
- Change the litter box if you have a cat
- Help prepare for the baby’s arrival by setting up furniture
Think about what you need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Plan ahead for the first few weeks with your new baby.
Having a new baby is exciting, but it can be stressful.
- Get tips to help you prepare for your new baby.
- Talk with your doctor or midwife about newborn screening tests.
- Get more information about how to breastfeed your baby.
- Talk to friends and family about helping out after the baby arrives. Keep in mind that people can always drop off food but not stay!
- Know the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. More than 1 in 10 women suffer from depression after they have a baby. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any questions or concerns.
Not pregnant yet? Plan ahead.
- Find out what to do before you get pregnant.
- Make sure you are getting 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects.
- Stop drinking alcohol when you start trying to get pregnant.
- Stay away from harmful chemicals like paint thinner and bug spray.
- Take steps to protect yourself from relationship violence.
Schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife.
- Get your blood pressure checked. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor how you can control it before and during your pregnancy.
- Ask about getting shots (vaccines) before you get pregnant.
- Talk with your doctor or nurse about your family history, including any medical conditions you have that could affect a pregnancy.
- If you feel sad or “down” for more than 2 weeks at a time, ask about getting help for depression.