When you're expecting, you'll welcome a new routine into your life: regular prenatal visits. As many moms can tell you, there's an air of excitement to these visits. You'll learn your estimated due date and hear your baby's heartbeat for the first time. Your doctor will also monitor your health and your baby's health, provide nutrition and activity guidelines, explain what to expect during labor and delivery, and offer tips on how to care and feed your new baby.
Recommended Schedule for a Healthy Pregnancy
For a healthy pregnancy, your doctor will probably want to see you on the following recommended schedule of prenatal visits:
- Weeks 4 to 28: 1 prenatal visit a month
- Weeks 28 to 36: 1 prenatal visit every 2 weeks
- Weeks 36 to 40: 1 prenatal visit every week
Be sure to stick to the schedule that your doctor suggests -- even if life gets hectic. Prenatal care is important for both your health and your baby's health. In fact, when a mother doesn't get prenatal care, her baby is three times more likely to have a low birth weight. When your doctor checks you regularly, he or she can spot problems early and treat them so that you can have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
Risk Factors That May Require More Visits
The recommended schedule isn't set in stone. Your doctor will decide how often to see you based on your individual health picture. Your doctor will want to see you more often if you had any health problems before you became pregnant or if problems develop during your pregnancy. You also may need additional tests to ensure that you and your baby stay healthy.
If you have any of these risk factors, your doctor may increase the number of your prenatal visits:
- Being age 35 and older. Fortunately, most women in their late 30s and early 40s will give birth to strong, healthy babies. But after age 35, you have an increased chance of having a baby born with a birth defect. You also have a higher risk for complications during pregnancy.
- Pre-existing health problems. If you have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure, your doctor will probably want to see you more often. Your doctor will work with you to closely manage these health conditions so they don't affect your pregnancy or your baby's health. Other health problems such as asthma, lupus, anemia, or obesity may also require more visits.
- Medical problems that develop during pregnancy. During prenatal visits, your doctor will look for complications that can occur after you've become pregnant. These include preeclampsia, or pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. If you develop any of these health conditions, you may need to come in more often so your doctor can keep close tabs on your health.
- Risk of preterm labor. If you have a history of preterm labor or a premature birth, or if you start showing signs of preterm labor, your doctor will want to monitor you more closely.
Seeing your doctor for regular prenatal care can help put your mind at ease. You'll know that you're doing all you can to have a healthy baby and safe pregnancy.