Prenatal care can help keep you and your baby healthy. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care. Your midwife can spot health problems early which allows for early treatment. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others. Having a healthy pregnancy is one of the best ways to promote a healthy birth and getting early and regular prenatal care improves the chances of a healthy pregnancy. This care can begin even before pregnancy with a preconception care visit to a health care provider.
Women can help to promote a healthy pregnancy and birth of a healthy infant by taking the following steps before they become pregnant:
- Develop a plan for their reproductive life – how many children do you want to have and when do you want to have them?
- Control diabetes, high blood pressure, and other medical conditions.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs.
- Attain a healthy weight.
- Learn about their family health history and that of their partner.
- Seek help for anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders (alcohol and other drugs).
Prenatal Health Information
- March of Dimes
- Prenatal Care Fact Sheet– Office on Women's Health (OWH)
- Prenatal Care information page– Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine
- What is prenatal care and why is it important? – National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASDs are conditions with lifelong consequences, and are 100% preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Surgeon General's office, and The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) all state that NO amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Learn more about how to prevent FASDs on IHS's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder page.
Drug use During Pregnancy
Using methamphetamine and other illegal drugs or abusing prescription drugs can harm your unborn baby. Expectant mothers who use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs (such as opioids) can endanger themselves and they unborn children. A drug-free life will help ensure a healthier pregnancy and a healthier family in years to come.
If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and want your baby to be healthy, it is important to avoid drug use during your pregnancy. And illegal drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin are not the only drugs that are harmful to the baby's development. Abusing prescription drugs known as opioids are also very dangerous to you and your baby. Taking drugs during pregnancy increases the chances of birth defects, premature (early) birth, underweight babies, and stillborn births. Babies can be born with brain or other organ damage and can have severe learning disabilities.