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Have a Healthy Pregnancy

smiling pregnant woman and man

The Basics

It’s important to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy. To keep you and your baby healthy:

  • See your doctor or midwife regularly.
  • Get important prenatal (“pree-NAY-tuhl”) tests.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Prevent infections.
  • Eat healthy foods and stay active.

To get more tips for a healthy pregnancy:

See your doctor or midwife regularly.
Plan on visiting your doctor or midwife at least every month for the first 7 months and more often during the last 2 months. A midwife is someone who is trained to provide prenatal care (care during pregnancy) and help women during childbirth.

Talk with your doctor or midwife about:

  • Questions about your pregnancy
  • How to have a healthy pregnancy
  • Anything that’s bothering or worrying you
  • Your plan for giving birth, including:
    • What support people you want in the labor room
    • How you want to manage pain during labor
    • Whether you want to breastfeed right after giving birth

Find out when to call your doctor or midwife right away.

Enjoy the benefits of prenatal care.
The best benefit of a healthy pregnancy is having a healthy baby. Women who get prenatal care have healthier babies and are less likely to give birth prematurely (before the baby’s due date).

Doctors and midwives can find health problems sooner when they see mothers regularly. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others.

Prenatal care can also help you:

  • Feel less worried or tired
  • Prevent health problems like diabetes and heart disease

Get important prenatal tests.
During your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will recommend medical tests as part of your prenatal care. These routine medical tests give your doctor or midwife important information about you and your baby.

Your doctor or midwife will check your blood and urine for:

Some tests will be done more than once. If you are younger than age 25 or have certain risk factors, your doctor or midwife may check for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Get tested for diabetes.

  • Pregnant women at high risk for type 2 diabetes need to get tested at the first prenatal visit. Find out about your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • All pregnant women need to get tested for gestational (“jes-TAY-shon-al”) diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy.

What do I need to know about gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can lead to health problems for moms and babies – during and after pregnancy. It’s important to get tested so that you and your doctor or midwife can take steps to protect your health and the health of your baby.

You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are over age 25
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander
  • Had gestational diabetes during an earlier pregnancy
  • Have had a baby weighing over 9 pounds

You can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes by eating healthy and staying active during pregnancy. Check out these questions to ask your doctor about getting screened for gestational diabetes.

Learn more about gestational diabetes [PDF - 372 KB].

Not pregnant yet? Plan ahead.

Take Action!

There are lots of things you can do today to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Get prenatal care.
If you know you are pregnant or think you might be, call your doctor or midwife to schedule a visit.

Get important shots.
Talk to your doctor or midwife about which shots (vaccines) you may need. These shots can help protect you and your baby.

Take charge of your health care.
Speak up and ask questions when you are at the doctor. When you play an active role in your health care, you help make sure that you and your growing family will get good care.

Know your family’s health history.
Use this family health history tool to keep track of your family’s health. Share this health information with the doctors and nurses who take care of you and your family.

What about cost?
Many prenatal tests are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these tests at no cost to you.

Talk to your insurance company to find out what this means for you. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

You can also get help from your state to pay for medical care during pregnancy. These programs give medical care, information, advice, and other services important for a healthy pregnancy. To find out about the program in your state:

  • Call 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229).
  • For information in Spanish, call 1-800-504-7081.

Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
One of the best ways to protect your health and the health of your baby is to stop smoking and drinking during your pregnancy.

There is no safe amount to drink or smoke while you are pregnant. Both can harm the health of your baby. Be honest with your doctor or midwife about how much you are drinking or smoking.

Secondhand smoke (smoke from other people’s cigarettes) can also put you and your baby at risk for health problems. Stay away from cigarette smoke.

Learn more:

Eat healthy and stay active.
Eating well can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Check out these tips on healthy eating during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor or midwife about your nutritional needs during pregnancy.

  • Ask if you need to take a daily prenatal vitamin.
  • Find out about healthy weight gain during your pregnancy.

Being physically active may help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast, dancing, or swimming. Do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Get more tips to help you stay active during pregnancy.

To get more information about diet and exercise during pregnancy, visit:

Prevent infection.
Infections can harm your baby. To prevent infections you can:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid certain foods [PDF - 125 KB], such as lunch meat and soft cheeses.
  • Prepare food safely. Don’t forget to rinse fruits and vegetables.
  • Have someone else empty your cat’s litter box. Dirty cat litter has bacteria that can harm pregnant women.

Ask for help if you need it.
Being pregnant may be tiring or stressful at times. Extra support from loved ones can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Family members or friends can:

  • Provide emotional support so you feel less stressed
  • Visit the doctor or midwife with you
  • Change the litter box if you have a cat
  • Help prepare for the baby’s arrival by setting up furniture

Think about what you need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Plan ahead for the first few weeks with your new baby.

Prepare for your new baby by learning more about newborn screening and breastfeeding.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133