Prenatal care helps keep you and your baby healthy
Prenatal care is medical care you get when you’re pregnant. You can get prenatal care from certain health providers, like an obstetrician, a family practice doctor, a certified nurse-midwife, a family nurse practitioner or a women’s health nurse practitioner.
At each prenatal checkup, your provider checks on you and your growing baby. Your provider checks your weight, blood and urine. You can find out your due date and check if there are any vaccinations you need. You also get to experience the exciting moment of seeing your baby for the first time with an ultrasound. Many providers offer ultrasound to all pregnant women.
Your provider gives you prenatal tests to make sure your baby is growing healthy. Some of these tests include amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS) and cystic fibrosis (CF) carrier screening.
Use your prenatal checkups as a time to ask your provider all your questions about pregnancy and your baby.
See also: Your first prenatal care checkup, Later prenatal care checkups
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.