It's always important to take good care of your health, but never more so than when you're pregnant. You're not only caring for your own body, you're also nurturing and growing a new human being. Let's talk about pregnancy care.
During the nine or so months of your pregnancy, you'll see a lot of your ob/gyn. In fact, you should visit your doctor once a month during the first seven months of your pregnancy. Then you should see your doctor once every 2 or 3 weeks until your ninth month, and finally every week until you deliver. You might also see your regular doctor, a nurse midwife, or, if you have any complications, a perinatologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.
That might sound like a lot of visits, but the goal is to keep a close eye on both you and your growing baby. Your doctor will check your baby's heart rate, and measure how quickly you're gaining weight. You'll likely have at least one ultrasound, where you can actually get to see your baby and find out the gender, unless you want it to be a surprise. Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will monitor you for any health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
At your regular prenatal visits, your doctor can give you advice about what to eat and how much to exercise. You can also ask about all those weird symptoms you've been having, like morning sickness, food cravings, and the constant urge to use the bathroom.
There are a few things you need to do while you're pregnant to make sure you and your baby are healthy. First, you have to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Folic acid is especially important right before you get pregnant, and during the first trimester of your pregnancy because it helps your baby's brain and spinal cord form. Taking folic acid can help prevent birth defects like spina bifida.
One thing you need to avoid is alcohol. When you're craving a glass of wine or beer, have some sparkling water, grape juice, or ginger ale instead. Alcohol can be very dangerous for your baby. Also don't take any medicines without talking to your doctor first. That includes over-the-counter medicines like aspirin and cold relievers. Caffeine is okay, but only in moderation. Limit yourself to one cup of coffee, instead of your regular two or three. Don't smoke and stay away from anyone who is smoking. Cigarette smoke deprives your baby of oxygen. It can stunt your child's growth, and lead to birth defects such as a cleft lip or palate.
If you're pregnant and you haven't seen a doctor yet, now is the time to call. The sooner you get prenatal care, the more likely that your baby will be born healthy. Let your doctor know if you have a condition like diabetes, seizures, or high blood pressure, or if you've been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, chemicals, or radiation.
Get medical help right away during your pregnancy if you have a fever, painful urination, vaginal bleeding, or severe stomach pain. Call if your water breaks, or you're not feeling your baby moving and it's near the end of your pregnancy.
Review Date: 2/18/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.