Planning a pregnancy
The first few weeks of pregnancy are crucial in a child's development. However, many women don't realize they're pregnant until several weeks after becoming pregnant. Planning ahead and taking care of yourself before becoming pregnant is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
Choosing the provider right for you
What doctor or provider is right for you?
There are several types of doctors and providers that can care for you pre-pregnancy, during your pregnancy, when you deliver your baby and afterwards (postpartum). The doctor you choose will have a big role throughout your pregnancy.
We know this is a personal and important decision. We want to help you make an informed decision that is best for you.
Obstetrician: Obstetricians are medical doctors who specialize in the care of pregnancy, labor, and birth. Obstetrics is the surgical field specializing in childbirth, whereas gynecology is the field of medicine foscusing on women's health, specifically their reproductive health. One can be a gynecologist and not an obstetrician, though one cannot be an obstetrician without being a gynecologist.
Obstetrician-gynecologist: Many women in the United States choose to have their babies delivered by an OB-GYN. OB-GYNs are doctors who have completed four years of training in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. These doctors are trained to provide a wide range of women’s healthcare services. They can range from normal to complicated obstetrics. Their primary focus is on pregnancy and women’s health concerns.
Meet our OB/GYNs
Maternal-fetal medicine specialist: Maternal-fetal medicine is a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology. Maternal-fetal medicine doctors are also called perinatologists. Maternal-fetal medicine specialists offer specialized care for pregnant women and their unborn baby. They are trained to help when pregnancies are high-risk or "not routine".
Special cases can include:
- twin or multiple births
- chronic health problems
- a fetus (unborn baby) with an abnormal growth
Midwife: Certified nurse midwives (CNM) are trained health care providers who have attained advanced education and certification on a masters-level or doctoral-level to fulfill their passion for gynecological health, as well as prenatal and postnatal care.
Midwives are experts in providing prenatal, birth, and postpartum care for people with low- to moderate-risk pregnancies and provide high quality gynecologic care for people of all ages. These providers are uniquely skilled to help improve quality and decrease costs.
Midwives are known for the evidence-based, personalized approach; they partner with their clients to make decisions with a client's input and preferences in mind. They have expertise supporting people through the normal birth process and work to minimize interventions and medical procedures unless they are necessary.
If you think you are struggling with infertility, this is not uncommon and you are not alone. The CDC stated approximately 6% of women (stated as married, between the ages 15-44), in the United States are unable to get pregnant after one year of unprotected, planned and timed sex. Additionally, about 12% of women (again ages 15 to 44 years) in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
To learn more about infertility, visit our infertility page. If you think that you may be experiencing infertility issues or have questions about getting pregnant, please talk to your provider. If you need a provider, please visit our provider directory to find a someone today.
What to expect at your pre-pregnancy appointment
Your provider will want to learn more about you and your family history, if possible. This will help to care for you and your well being in a comprehensive way.
Family medical history. An assessment of the maternal and paternal medical history will help determine if any family member has had any medical conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, or intellectual disability.
Personal medical history. An assessment of the woman's personal medical history will determine if there are any of the following:
- Medical conditions that may need special care during pregnancy—like epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, or allergies
- Previous surgeries
- Past pregnancies
Genetic testing. An assessment of any possible genetic disorders—as several genetic disorders may be inherited, like sickle cell anemia (a serious blood disorder that primarily happens in African Americans), or Tay-Sachs disease (a nerve breakdown disorder marked by progressive intellectual and developmental disabilities that primarily happens in people of Eastern European Jewish origin). Some genetic disorders can be found by blood tests before pregnancy.
Vaccine status. An assessment of current vaccines will assess a woman's immunity to rubella (German measles), in particular, since getting this disease during pregnancy can cause miscarriage or birth defects. If a woman isn't immune, a vaccine may be given at least 1 month before conception to provide immunity.
Infection screening. An infection screening will determine if a woman has a sexually transmitted infection or urinary tract infection (or the person was symptomatic or had risk factors) that could be harmful to the fetus and to the mother.
Additional steps to take to help prepare for a healthy pregnancy and delivery include:
Smoking cessation. If you're a smoker, stop smoking now. Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who smoke tend to be born prematurely, be lower in birth weight, and are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, women with exposure to secondhand smoke are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies. There may also be dangers from thirdhand smoke, the chemicals, particles, and gases of tobacco that are left on hair, clothing, and furnishings.
Proper diet. Eating a balanced diet before and during pregnancy isn't only good for the mother's overall health, but essential for nourishing the fetus.
Proper weight and exercise. It's important to exercise regularly and maintain a proper weight before and during pregnancy. Women who are overweight may experience medical problems, like high blood pressure and diabetes. Women who are underweight may have babies with low birth weight.
Medical management of pre-existing conditions. Before getting pregnant, take control of any current or pre-existing medical problems, like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Preventing birth defects. Take 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day, a nutrient found in some green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements. Folic acid can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (also called neural tube defects).
Avoid exposure to alcohol and drugs during pregnancy. In addition, be sure to tell your healthcare provider of any medicines (prescription and over-the-counter) you're currently taking—all may have negative effects on the developing fetus.
Exposure to harmful substances. Pregnant women should avoid exposure to toxic and chemical substances (like lead and pesticides), and radiation (like X-rays). Exposure to high levels of some types of radiation and some chemical and toxic substances may negatively affect the developing fetus.
Infection control. Pregnant women should avoid the ingestion of undercooked meat and raw eggs. In addition, pregnant women should avoid all contact and exposure to cat feces and cat litter, which may contain a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that causes toxoplasmosis. Other sources of infection include insects (for instance, flies) that have been in contact with cat feces and should be avoided during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause a serious illness in, or death of, the fetus. A pregnant woman can reduce her risk for infection by avoiding all potential sources of the infection. A blood test before or during pregnancy can determine if a woman has been exposed to the Toxoplasma gondii parasite.
Daily vitamins. Begin taking a prenatal vitamin daily, prescribed by your healthcare provider or a midwife to make certain that your body gets all the necessary nutrients and vitamins needed to nourish a healthy baby.
Identifying domestic violence. Women who are abused before pregnancy may be at risk for increased abuse during pregnancy. Your healthcare provider or a midwife can help you find community, social, and legal resources.