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Prenatal care

  • Prenatal care is the care you get while you’re pregnant.
  • Regular prenatal care helps keep you and baby healthy.
  • A doctor, midwife or other health provider gives this care.
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Amniotic fluid

Amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds your baby in your uterus (womb). It’s very important for your baby’s development.

How does amniotic fluid keep your baby healthy?
During pregnancy, your uterus is filled with amniotic fluid. Here’s what the fluid does:

  • Cushions and protects your baby
  • Keeps a steady temperature around your baby
  • Helps your baby’s lungs grow and develop because your baby breathes in the fluid
  • Helps your baby’s digestive system develop because your baby swallows the fluid
  • Helps your baby’s muscles and bones develop because your baby can move around in the fluid
  • Keeps the umbilical cord (the cord that carries food and oxygen from the placenta to your baby) from being squeezed

The amniotic sac (bag) inside the uterus holds your growing baby. It is filled with amniotic fluid. This sac forms about 12 days after getting pregnant.

In the early weeks of pregnancy, the amniotic fluid is mostly water that comes from your body. After about 20 weeks of pregnancy, your baby’s urine makes up most of the fluid. Amniotic fluid also contains nutrients, hormones (chemicals made by the body) and antibodies (cells in the body that fight off infection).

How much amniotic fluid should there be?
The amount of amniotic fluid increases until about 36 weeks of pregnancy. At that time, it makes up about 1 quart. After that, the amount of amniotic fluid usually begins to decrease.

Sometimes you can have too little or too much amniotic fluid. Too little fluid is called oligohydramnios. Too much fluid is called polyhydramnios. Either one can cause problems for a pregnant woman and her baby. Even with these conditions, though, most babies are born healthy.

Does the color of amniotic fluid mean anything?
Normal amniotic fluid is clear or tinted yellow. Fluid that looks green or brown usually means that the baby has passed his first bowel movement (meconium) while in the womb. (Usually, the baby has his first bowel movement after birth.)

If the baby passes meconium in the womb, it can get into his lungs through the amniotic fluid. This can cause serious breathing problems, called meconium aspiration syndrome, especially if the fluid is thick.

Some babies with meconium in the amniotic fluid may need treatment right away after birth to prevent breathing problems. Babies who appear healthy at birth may not need treatment, even if the amniotic fluid has meconium.

June 2010

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Frequently Asked Questions

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is the force of blood that pushes against the walls of your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to other parts of the body. If the pressure in your arteries becomes too high, you have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called hypertension.

At each prenantal care visit, your health care provider checks your blood pressure. To do this, she wraps an inflatable cuff around your upper arm. She pumps air into the cuff to measure the pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts (gets tight) and then relaxes.

Your blood pressure reading is given as two numbers: the top (first) number is the pressure when your heart contracts and the bottom (second) number is the pressure when your heart relaxes. A healthy blood pressure is 110/80. High blood pressure happens when the top number is 140 or greater, or when the bottom number is 90 or greater

Your blood pressure can go up or down during the day. Your provider can re-check a high reading to find out if you have high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Last reviewed March 2012

See also: High blood pressure during pregnancy, Preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome

Can a rubella shot hurt my baby during pregnancy?

If you got your rubella shot around the time you got pregnant, it's unlikely that your baby will be harmed by the vaccine. However, it's best to wait to get pregnant for 28 days after vaccination because there is a very small risk of potentially hurting the baby. To date, there hasn't been any birth defects reported that are attributed to the rubella vaccine. In any case, the risk of harming your baby by getting the vaccine at the time you got pregnant is much lower than the risk of harming your baby if you caught rubella during pregnancy.

I couldn't see my baby at my 7 week ultrasound. Why?

At the 7th week of pregnancy, your baby is about ½ an inch long or the size of a blueberry. He's very small. When a transabdominal ultrasound (done on your belly) is done at such an early stage, it's possible that the baby can't be seen. It could be because it's too early in the pregnancy or because you conceived a little later than what you thought. Your health care provider might recommend a transvaginal ultrasound (done inside the vagina) to help see the baby more clearly.

What are choroid plexus cysts?

The choroid plexus is the area of the brain that produces the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This is not an area of the brain that involves learning or thinking. Occasionally, one or more cysts can form in the choroid plexus. These cysts are made of blood vessels and tissue. They do not cause intellectual disabilities or learning problems. Using ultrasound, a health care provider can see these cysts in about 1 in 120 pregnancies at 15 to 20 weeks gestation. Most disappear during pregnancy or within several months after birth and are no risk to the baby. They aren't a problem by themselves. But if screening tests show other signs of risk, they may indicate a possible genetic defect. In this case, testing with higher-level ultrasound and/or amniocentesis may be recommended to confirm or rule out serious problems.

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