All pregnant women who decide to go on with their pregnancies must receive prenatal care to stay healthy and give birth to healthy babies. Find out how to have a healthy pregnancy below:
Prenatal care is the care you will receive throughout your entire pregnancy. During prenatal care visits, a clinician monitors your health and the health of the baby.
During prenatal care visits, your clinician can detect health problems for you and the baby in time to offer treatment. It helps prevent mothers from giving birth too early (preterm birth).
Prenatal care = healthy babies and healthy mothers.
You should see a clinician as soon as you find out you are pregnant. They can confirm the pregnancy with a blood test. If you decide that you want to continue with the pregnancy, you will start prenatal care immediately.
Obstetricians and Midwives are trained clinicians that take care of pregnant women. If you do not know where to go, call your primary care clinician or your local health clinic and inquire where, in your community, you can find prenatal care services. The nurse at your school health center can also help you find resources in your community.
Find a local clinic through our Clinic Finder
Depending on your gestational age (the number of weeks that you have been pregnant) the visits will vary. Generally, your clinician will monitor your weight, take a urine test to detect protein in your urine, measure your belly and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. You may get an abdominal or vaginal sonogram. Your clinician may ask you to take some tests to screen for STIs, HIV and genetic problems that can affect your baby. You may also need some extra blood tests to monitor your health.
During your first visit, your clinician will ask you questions about your general health, your family’s health history (to detect any genetic issues), your sexual history, including STI and pregnancy history, and your current living situation. Although these questions are very personal, it is important that you answer them honestly. At every visit, you will be asked about your general health, pregnancy symptoms, and any problems like pain or bleeding.
Absolutely. You can bring your partner or the baby’s father to keep him involved in the process. You can also decide to bring a parent. They can support you and answer questions about the family’s health history. You can tell the clinician if you prefer having some privacy during the visit to answer some personal questions you don’t want your partner or parent to know.
Yes. The clinician will ask you questions about your sexual life, including past and current STI infections. If not treated, an STI can cause serious harm to you and your baby. If you have an STI, the clinician will help you treat it or manage it to keep you and your baby healthy.
You can have a healthy pregnancy by keeping your body healthy even before you get pregnant. Your clinician will give you information about the Do’s and Don’ts during pregnancy. Make sure you eat a variety of healthy foods, and avoid eating fast food and sugary drinks. Take a prenatal vitamin, and stay active. Most young mothers can keep exercising regularly throughout their pregnancy.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent major brain and spine defects in the baby when you take it before and during a pregnancy. Even if you eat a healthy diet, you are probably not getting enough folic acid. You can get prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Prenatal vitamins give your body a boost of nutrients to ensure you and your baby receive the nutrients necessary to grow.
Smoking tobacco, marijuana or any other substance is very harmful for the baby. Anything the mother eats, drinks, or inhales goes to the baby. When you smoke, there’s less oxygen that gets to the baby, which affects their development. Also, the chemicals from the cigarette will be absorbed by your baby.
Women who smoke during their pregnancy have a higher risk of having babies with low birth weight, babies delivered too early (preterm births), or babies who die before birth (stillbirth or miscarriage). It is best that you quit smoking completely and avoid being around cigarette smoke. If you are a smoker and need help quitting, tell your clinician.
All types of alcohol (beer, wine, wine coolers, liquor) are potentially harmful for babies, especially during the first 3 months of the pregnancy. When a mother drinks, the alcohol reaches the baby and stays in the baby’s bloodstream for a longer period of time. This can have lifelong consequences for the baby’s development. Mothers who drink during pregnancy are at a higher risk of having babies with behavior and attention problems, heart defects, and have speech, growth and learning problems.
There is no amount of alcohol that has been proven to be safe during pregnancy. It is best to avoid it completely. If you drink alcohol and need help quitting, tell your clinician.
All street drugs (marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, K2/ Spice, heroin) are bad for babies. Mothers who use illegal drugs during a pregnancy have a higher risk of having babies too early (preterm birth), with low birthweight, and of having babies who die before birth (stillbirth and miscarriage). If you use street drugs and need help quitting, tell your clinician.
Women can get help paying for prenatal care and childbirth either with their health insurance (or parents’ health insurance) or Medicaid. Contact your local health clinic to learn about your options and where to get free or low cost prenatal health care.
Find a local clinic in our Clinic Finder.
Many young pregnant women are abused by their partners verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Abused pregnant women can suffer from a lot of stress that can affect the baby. They can also be subject to hitting, punching or kicking that can put them and the baby at risk. If your partner hurts you or makes you afraid it’s best to tell your clinician so you can get the support services you need.
If you are not sure whether or not you are being abused, complete the quiz in To Keep or Dump? and find out.
Call 1-800-799-7233 the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Or visit www.thehotline.org
You and your baby deserve a life free of violence and fear.
While classes are optional, you may find them very useful. Many hospitals offer prenatal classes for adults and for teens as well. These classes offer great information about breastfeeding, taking care of the baby, baby first aid, and birthing techniques. Some teen classes help teens get a support network with other young mothers.
Absolutely not. You have the right to stay in school and stay active in any activity you participated in before your pregnancy unless it puts your baby’s health at risk. You and your baby are protected by Title IX policy. Your school principal, your teachers, or other staff cannot kick you out of school or any school-sponsored activity. Also, your school must give you time off to go to your medical appointments, and time off after childbirth. By staying in school and finishing your studies you are giving your baby a healthy start in life. If you drop out of school, you may never finish your degree which is important to find a job or apply to college.