I don't want to get pregnant right now. But should I still take folic acid every day?
Yes! Birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the very early stages of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. By the time she finds out she is pregnant, it might be too late to prevent those birth defects. Also, half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned. For these reasons, all women who are able to get pregnant need 400 mcg of folic acid every day.
How often should I see my doctor during pregnancy?
Your doctor will give you a schedule of all the doctor's visits you should have while pregnant. Most experts suggest you see your doctor:
- About once each month for weeks 4–28
- Twice a month for weeks 28–36
- Weekly for weeks 36–birth
If you are older than 35, or your pregnancy is high-risk, you may see your doctor more often.
What happens during prenatal visits?
During the first prenatal visit, you can expect your doctor to:
- Ask about your health history including diseases, operations or prior pregnancies
- Ask about your family's health history
- Do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test
- Take your blood and urine for lab work
- Check your blood pressure, height and weight
- Calculate your due date
- Answer your questions
At the first visit, you should ask questions and discuss any issues related to your pregnancy. Find out all you can about how to stay healthy.
Later prenatal visits will probably be shorter. Your doctor will check on your health and make sure the baby is growing as expected. Most prenatal visits will include:
- Checking your blood pressure
- Measuring your weight gain
- Measuring your abdomen to check your baby’s growth (once you begin to show)
- Checking the baby's heart rate
While you're pregnant, you also will have some routine tests. Some tests are suggested for all women, such as blood work to check for anemia, your blood type, HIV, gestational diabetes and other factors. Other tests might be offered based on your age, personal or family health history, your ethnic background, or the results of routine tests you have had.
I am in my late 30s, and I want to get pregnant. Should I do anything special?
As you get older, there’s an increased risk that your baby could be born with a birth defect. Yet most women in their late 30s and early 40s have healthy babies. See your doctor regularly before you even start trying to get pregnant. Because of your age, your doctor will probably suggest some extra tests to check on your baby's health.
More and more women are waiting until they are in their 30s and 40s to have children. While many women of this age have no problems getting pregnant, fertility does decline with age. Women over 40 who don't get pregnant after six months of trying should see their doctors for a fertility evaluation.
Experts define infertility as the inability to become pregnant after trying for one year. If a woman keeps having miscarriages, it’s also called infertility. If you think you or your partner may be infertile, talk to your doctor. Doctors are able to help many infertile couples go on to have healthy babies.
Where can I go to get free or reduced-cost prenatal care?
- Call 800-311-BABY (800-311-2229). This toll-free telephone number will connect you to the local health department in your area code.
- For information in Spanish, call 800-504-7081.