Prenatal Care

What is prenatal care and why is it important?

 If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. Although it is a wonderful experience, but it can also be a time of uncertainty. Many parents have questions and concerns as they face all the changes that pregnancy brings.

A medical checkup before you are pregnant can help ensure you are in good health and are making healthy choices that support a healthy pregnancy. A checkup before you are pregnant can also screen for any illnesses or conditions that could affect your pregnancy.
The main goal of prenatal care is to ensure a healthy mother and baby.

Whether this is your first, second, or sixth baby, the following are important steps to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible:

1. Make a Plan and Take Action

Whether or not you’ve written them down, you’ve probably thought about your goals for having or not having children, and how to achieve those goals. For example, when you didn’t want to have a baby, you used effective birth control methods to achieve your goals. Now that you’re thinking about getting pregnant, it’s important to take steps to achieve your goal

2. See Your Doctor

Before getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about preconception health care. Your doctor will want to discuss your health history and any medical conditions you currently have that could affect a pregnancy. He or she also will discuss any previous pregnancy problems, medicines that you currently are taking, vaccinations that you might need, and steps you can take before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about:

– Medical Conditions
If you currently have any medical conditions, be sure they are under control and being treated. Some of these conditions include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), diabetes, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.

– Lifestyle and Behaviors
Talk with your doctor or another health professional if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use certain drugs; live in a stressful or abusive environment; or work with or live around toxic substances. Health care professionals can help you with counseling, treatment, and other support services.

Taking certain medicines during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. These include some prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements. If you are planning a pregnancy, you should discuss the need for any medication with your doctor before becoming pregnant and make sure you are taking only those medications that are necessary.

-Vaccinations (shots)
Some vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep you healthy and help keep your baby from getting very sick or having lifelong health problems.

3. Take 400 Micrograms of Folic Acid Every Day

Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body at least 1 month before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.

4. Stop Drinking Alcohol, Smoking, and Using Certain Drugs

Smoking, drinking alcohol, and using certain drugs can cause many problems during pregnancy for a woman and her baby, such as premature birth, birth defects, and infant death.
If you are trying to get pregnant and cannot stop drinking, smoking, or using drugs―get help! Contact your doctor or local treatment center.

5. Avoid Toxic Substances and Environmental Contaminants

Avoid harmful chemicals, environmental contaminants, and other toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent feces around the home and in the workplace. These substances can hurt the reproductive systems of men and women. They can make it more difficult to get pregnant. Exposure to even small amounts during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, or puberty can lead to diseases. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from toxic substances at work and at home.

6. Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, including complications during pregnancy, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).

1. People who are underweight are also at risk for serious health problems.

2. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity.
If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant.

Keep up your nutrition!

• Eat a variety of healthy foods each day
Vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods are all part of healthy eating during pregnancy and contribute to the nutritional health of you and your baby. Try making half your plate full of vegetables and fruits at meals and snack times. Choose foods that have little to no added sodium, sugars, or saturated fat. If you are not able to eat a variety of foods due to nausea or vomiting, speak to your health care provider.

• Choose foods with healthy fats instead of saturated fat
Foods like nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and vegetable oils contain healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. You need more omega-3 fatty acids when you are pregnant to support the growth of your baby’s brain and tissues.

• Choose fish low in mercury
Vary the types of fish you eat and follow advice from Health Canada to limit your exposure to mercury in fish. Check with your local, provincial, or territorial government for any advisory on local fish.

• Eat a little more food each day than you normally would
During your second and third trimesters, you need more calories to support the growth of your baby. You need just a little more food each day, such as an extra snack or small meal.

• Make water your drink of choice
It is important to drink plenty of water while you are pregnant. Water carries nutrients to your body and to your growing baby, takes away waste products from your baby and from you, keeps you cool, helps prevent constipation and helps control swelling. Make water the easy choice by carrying a reusable water bottle. White milk and unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages are also healthy drink options.

• Be mindful of your caffeine intake
Many women have caffeine during pregnancy. Caffeine is safe in small amounts. Try to keep your caffeine intake below 300 mg a day, which is about two 8-oz (237 mL) cups of coffee. As caffeine can also be found in other drinks and chocolate, your daily total should include all sources of caffeine. This includes coffee, tea (including black, oolong, white and green tea), caffeinated soft drinks (for example, cola beverages) and energy drinks, chocolate, and herbs such as guarana and yerba mate.
Some herbal teas, such as chamomile, are not safe to drink when you are pregnant. Avoid teas with aloe, coltsfoot, juniper berry, pennyroyal, buckthorn bark, comfrey, Labrador tea, sassafras, duck root, lobelia, stinging nettle and senna leaves. Also avoid kombucha tea. Other herbal teas, such as citrus peel, ginger, orange peel and rose hip, are considered safe in moderation (two to three cups per day).

• Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat
Being mindful of your eating habits is also important during pregnancy and can help you make healthier food choices. Take time to eat and limit distractions during mealtime. Plan your meals and snacks. Include culture, food traditions and taste preferences as part of healthy eating.

7. Get Help for Violence

Violence can lead to injury and death among women at any stage of life, including during pregnancy. The number of violent deaths experienced by women tells only part of the story. Many more survive violence and are left with lifelong physical and emotional scars.
If someone is violent toward you or you are violent toward your loved ones―get help. Violence destroys relationships and families.

8. Learn Your Family History

Collecting your family’s health history can be important for your child’s health. You might not realize that your sister’s heart defect or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child but sharing this family history information with your doctor can be important.
Other reasons people go for genetic counseling include having had several miscarriages, infant deaths, trouble getting pregnant (infertility), or a genetic condition or birth defect that occurred during a previous pregnancy.

9. Get Mentally Healthy

Mental health is how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. To be at your best, you need to feel good about your life and value yourself. Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad, or stressed sometimes. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, get help. Talk with your doctor or another health professional about your feelings and treatment options.

10. Have a Healthy Pregnancy!

Once you are pregnant, be sure to keep up all your new healthy habits and see your doctor regularly throughout pregnancy for prenatal care.


  1. NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online:
  2. Moos, Merry-K, et al. Healthier women, healthier reproductive outcomes: recommendations for the routine care of all women of reproductive age. AJOG Volume 199, Issue 6, Supplement B , Pages S280-S289, December 2008.