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Preparing for pregnancy and prenatal care

Taking care of your health is so important as you prepare for parenthood, including pre-pregnancy care and prenatal care. Here are some simple tips for what you can do before getting pregnant and what to expect with prenatal care.

What should you do before getting pregnant?

Consider these 5 changes before getting pregnant to help increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy—for both you and your baby. If you can, start at least 3 months in advance.1 

1. Take folic acid every day

It’s recommended for women to take 400–800 micrograms of folic acid daily. Some prenatal vitamins could have more, so talk to your doctor about how much you should be taking. 

2. Limit intake of potentially harmful substances 

It’s usually suggested that women quit smoking and limit, or stop, drinking prior to pregnancy and throughout. Smoking can reduce fertility in both men and women, and exposure to secondhand smoke can also affect your chances of getting pregnant.2

3. Avoid toxic substances 

Household cleaners and air fresheners are a few examples of common items you might have around that could affect your chances of pregnancy. You’ll want to be careful of spray and aerosol cleaners and avoid using them when possible. Also, avoid anything that could cause a serious infection or is known for releasing harmful fumes, like painting or changing your cat’s litter box.3 If your partner isn’t around and you have to do these chores yourself, make sure you have good ventilation as you work and wear protective clothing. 

4. Assess your existing medical conditions 

Pre-existing health conditions can both affect your pregnancy or be heightened by it. Make sure any pre-existing medical conditions are under control and check in with your doctor to make sure they won’t affect you or your baby during pregnancy. 

5. Review your medications 

Many people take medicine regularly and rely on it to stay healthy, but not all medicines are safe to take during pregnancy. From prescriptions to over-the-counter pain relievers, you’ll want to be mindful of what you take before and during pregnancy. Go over your medications and prescriptions with your doctor. 

What is prenatal care, and why is it important?

After getting pregnant, prenatal checkups are critical for helping your health care team monitor the health of both you and your baby. Your prenatal care will likely include an initial physical exam and review of your medical history, regular appointments for screening and diagnostic testing, emotional check-ins, and education on pregnancy and early motherhood. 
Doctors look for these common health problems in mothers during pregnancy: anemia, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes, urinary tract infections, and others.4 Having regular prenatal appointments helps make sure that these conditions are caught early and don’t cause problems for you and the baby. To help identify potential risks for the baby, your health care team will recommend tests based on the results of routine visits, your age, your health, and your family health history. 
Find a list of common prenatal tests and learn more about prenatal testing on the website for the Office on Women’s Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

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More to explore

1. “Preconception health,” Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, February 22, 2021, 2. “Smoking, Pregnancy, and Babies,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 5, 2022, 3. “Toxoplasmosis: Pregnancy FAQS,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 13, 2022, 4. “Pregnancy Complications,” Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, February 8, 2023,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.