If you think you are pregnant, see a doctor right away.
Prenatal care is the health care that a doctor or clinic gives to a pregnant woman. It is important for you to get early prenatal care.
If you go to the doctor as soon as you think you are pregnant and keep going throughout your pregnancy, you and your baby have a better chance to stay healthy.
You should receive prenatal care as often as your doctor or clinic recommends. The American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend prenatal care visits take place at least:
- Once every four weeks during the first six months of being pregnant
- Once every two weeks during the seventh and eight months of being pregnant
- Once every week during the last month of being pregnant
- Or more often as directed by the doctor
If you need help in finding a doctor or clinic for prenatal care, call the All Kids and FamilyCare hotline at 1-866-468-7543 (TTY: 1-877-204-1012).
What to Expect At Your Prenatal Care Visits:
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Standards of Care, you can expect the following at your prenatal visits:
The first prenatal care visit starts with a doctor asking questions about you and your health.
Your doctor also gives you a physical exam, including
- Blood pressure and temperature checks
- Weight and height recording
- Mouth and teeth exam
- Breast exam
- Heart and lung exam
- Pelvic exam
- Pap smear
- Blood and urine tests
- Counseling and voluntary, confidential testing for HIV
- Counseling on the importance of taking prenatal vitamins every day
- Counseling about what to expect during your pregnancy, including danger signs, eating a healthy diet, problems that could happen and health risk-taking behaviors and how to avoid things that make your pregnancy unhealthy
Ask questions! Make a list of questions to take with you to your appointment. The prenatal visit is for you.
Later in your pregnancy your doctor will check your health to see if you and your baby are healthy. Later prenatal visits include:
- Weight and blood pressure checks
- Measuring the baby's growth
- Checking the baby's heart rate
- Special tests you may need to find out about your health or the health of your baby
- Physical exams as needed
Tips for Being Healthy While You are Pregnant:
- See a doctor or clinic as soon as you think you are pregnant
- Keep all prenatal appointments with your doctor or healthcare provider
- Take your prenatal vitamins with folic acid, as directed by your doctor or healthcare provider
- Don't smoke, drink alcohol or use street drugs; they can hurt you and your baby
- Exercise regularly
- Wear a seatbelt
- Don't take any medicine, even an aspirin, without asking your doctor if it is safe
- Read the label for directions and warnings before you use paint, bug spray, cleaner or other chemicals
- Tell your doctor and your dentist that you are pregnant before your get any X-rays
You may need to eat smaller meals and more often during the day. It is important to gain some weight while you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about how much weight you should gain.
- Follow your doctor's medical advice
- Work with your doctor to choose a hospital before your baby is born
- Choose a doctor or clinic for your baby. Call your doctor or clinic to make sure they will see your baby. The doctor or clinic will usually want to see your baby two weeks after the baby is born
- Make an appointment for your postpartum visit after you deliver your baby. Voluntary family planning services will help to space your next pregnancy so you have a healthy birth.
Warning Signs During Pregnancy:
Be sure to talk about all of your worries with your doctor. It is important to see your doctor often and regularly. Keep all appointments the doctor recommends.
If there is a problem, your doctor may be able to treat you before it gets serious. Call your doctor right away if you see any of these signs:
- Bleeding from your vagina
- Swelling or puffiness of your face, feet or hands
- Severe swelling of your legs
- Sudden large weight gain
- Spots or flashes of light before your eyes; dim or blurry vision
- Dizziness, headaches
- Sharp pain in your stomach or pain that won't go away
- Vomiting that won't stop
- Chills and fever
- Sudden gush or leaking of fluid from your vagina
- Pain or burning when going to the bathroom to urinate (or pee) or having a hard time urinating (or peeing)
- Constant low back pain or cramping that comes and goes before the last month of your pregnancy
- After the fifth month of pregnancy, less movement of your baby
Take your prenatal vitamin every day.
What you eat is just as important as how much you eat. Your body is growing a baby, and you need the right kind of fuel to do a good job.
Vitamins and minerals help your body use the energy provided by foods. They also help repair and maintain cells and tissues.
Vitamins and minerals include folic acid (a B vitamin), iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D and calcium. Large amounts of vitamin A can be dangerous; pregnant women should avoid taking more than the daily value (5,000 international units) of vitamin A.
Choose a diet that includes a variety of healthy, nutritious foods. Some good choices are fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and pastas, milk products, and low-fat protein sources such as lean red meat, beans, tofu, poultry and some fish.
Folic acid is a naturally occurring B vitamin that helps a baby's neural tube—the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord—develop properly. It must be taken before and during early pregnancy when the neural tube is forming.
The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it and eat a healthy diet. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure. You also can get folic acid in your diet, but it's hard to get enough every day through food alone.
Folic acid works, but it only works if taken before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, when the neural tube is developing into the brain and spinal cord. When the neural tube does not close properly, a baby is born with a very serious birth defect called a neural tube defect
Folic acid is found in the following foods:
- Fortified breakfast cereals such as Total and Product 19
- Black beans
- Orange juice (from concentrate is best)
- Enriched breads and pasta
- Romaine lettuce
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC):
WIC helps mothers, babies and children get the healthy foods they need.
You may be able to get WIC if you:
- Are pregnant or had a baby within the past six months; or
- Are breast-feeding and your baby is younger than one year; or
- Have an infant or child younger than five years.
WIC is free. It gives you healthy foods including milk, eggs, cheese, juice, cereal, dry beans, and peas. For infants who are not breast fed, WIC provides infant formula with iron.
WIC tells you about healthy foods and screens your child's health. WIC helps with shots, family planning, substance abuse programs, family case management, lead poisoning screening, and children who need special healthcare.
If you get a Medical card, SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), or All Kids, you can get WIC. Parents, guardians or caretakers of an infant or child under age five may apply for WIC. To find out more about WIC and the agency nearest you, call 1-800-323-4769.
Nutrition During Pregnancy
Follow the USDA and the Illinois Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) recommended daily food guide and include in your diet:
- Milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese)
- Protein foods (lean meats, eggs, peanut butter, beans, chicken, fish)
- Grain products (breads, pasta, dried beans, rice, corn tortillas)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Water, drink 6-8 glasses each day
You may need to eat smaller meals and eat more often during the day. It is important to gain some weight while you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about how much weight you should gain.
If you are pregnant or have a baby under one year, you can sign up for FREE text messages sent directly to your cell phone through text4baby. Even if you do not have a text messaging plan, you can get these messages at no cost. If you have limited texting per month, text4baby will not take away from the total amount of messages used.
Registration is easy and can be done online or from your cell phone. Simply text the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411. You will be asked to enter your baby’s due date or your baby’s birthday and your zip code. Once you have registered, you will receive three text messages each week, timed to your due date or baby’s birthday. If your due date changes, you can text UPDATE to 511411 and enter your new due date. Messages start during pregnancy and go through your baby’s first birthday.
You will get tips on prenatal and infant care, immunization, postpartum depression, nutrition, oral health, quitting smoking, safety and more. If you want to stop receiving messages from text4baby, you can text STOP to 511411. If you want to start the messages again, you will have to re-register by sending BABY to 511411 (BEBE to 511411 for Spanish messages).