Prenatal care (or medical care while you are pregnant) can greatly improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. It is important to get prenatal care as soon as you find out that you are pregnant and to keep all your appointments, even if you feel fine. Regular prenatal checkups let you know how your baby is doing and can identify small problems before they become big ones. See the doctor or go to the clinic as soon as you think you may be pregnant.
What to Expect
At your first prenatal visit, the doctor will:
- Give you a pregnancy test
- Do a physical exam, a pelvic exam (check your ovaries and uterus) and collect a pap smear
- Find out your height and weight
- Test your urine
- Draw blood for lab work including tests for HIV, STD and sickle cell disease. (Your consent is required for some blood tests including HIV and sickle cell.) To learn more about STDs during pregnancy, visit STDs and Pregnancy – CDC Fact Sheet.
Your doctor will ask you about:
- Your general health
- What you eat
- Any allergies you may have
- Any medicines, herbs, vitamins and supplements you take
- Your family medical history
- About any previous pregnancies and any complications you may have had
- How you feel
Most women will have an appointment every month until the 7th month. Then visits are scheduled every two weeks. At the 9th month, prenatal visits are usually scheduled weekly.
Each time you go back for a prenatal visit your doctor will:
- Check you:
- Your blood pressure
- Your weight
- Your urine
- Signs of swelling
- Check your baby:
- Measure your stomach to see how fast your baby is growing
- Listen to your baby’s heartbeat
- Answer your questions and give you information about how your body is changing, how your baby is growing, and how to stay healthy.
These visits are a good time for you and the baby’s father to ask questions. Write them down ahead of time so you won’t forget. Pregnancy can be stressful, and your healthcare team knows this. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have with them.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – Provides food vouchers and nutrition services to eligible low-income pregnant, post-partum and breastfeeding women, infants and children until age five. Call your local county health department for more information and an application.
- North Carolina Community Health Centers. Find a community health center near you. Some provide OB/GYN services (sliding fee scale.)
- North Carolina Association of Free Clinics – Find free healthcare clinics across the state.
- For help covering health care expenses for you and your children, go to the NC Division of Medical Assistance (Medicaid) for general information including eligibility, Medicaid for Pregnant Women (over age 21)and health insurance for teens and babies.