Prenatal care is the health care women receive throughout pregnancy – starting as soon as the woman knows she’s pregnant until thebaby is born.
Women should seek prenatal care as soon as they discover that they are pregnant. By starting prenatal care during the first three months of pregnancy, a woman increases her chances of having a safe, healthy pregnancy.
Prenatal care consists of regular examinations to check the expectant mother's blood pressure, weight, changes in the size of the uterus, and to check the urine for signs of infection or too much sugar. It also includes monitoring the baby's heartbeat, checking the baby's growth, and determining the baby's position during the last trimester. Prenatal care also includes counseling about the nutritional requirements of pregnancy, preparation for labor and delivery, and the care of the newborn.
Prenatal care is very important because during the period when the infant is in-utero, a diagnosis of disease and developmental defects can be made. The following points indicate how prenatal care can help you:
- It may keep you and your baby from getting sick.
- It may keep your baby from being born too soon or too small.
- It may keep your baby from being born sick or with birth defects.
- It may help protect you from losing your baby during your pregnancy (miscarriage).
- It may prevent you from having a baby who is born dead (stillborn).
Serious Warning Signs
If you are pregnant and notice any of the following signs, contact your health care provider immediately:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Sudden puffiness of face, eyes, hands or feet
- Increasing headaches late in pregnancy
- Dimness or blurring of vision
- Severe pain in the abdomen; cramps increasing in number or discomfort
- Fever over 100 degrees F
- Burning during urination
- After 26th week, a lack of or less than usual movement for 10-12 hours
- Increasing nausea and vomiting
- Sudden decrease in urination
- Leaking of amniotic fluid from the vagina
In New Jersey, women may seek prenatal care in a private physician's office, hospitals, clinics, planned parenthood centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers.
For more information, please contact the Reproductive and Perinatal Health Services at (609) 292-5616 or the Maternal and Child Health Consortium in your area.