Pre-Pregnancy Care and Prenatal Care

Pre-Pregnancy care is the health care a woman gets before she becomes pregnant. Prenatal care is the health care a woman gets during pregnancy. Early and regular prenatal visits with a health care provider are important for the health of both the mother and the fetus. Pre-Pregnancy care from a health care provider is also important to help a woman have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.

About Pre-Pregnancy Care and Prenatal Care

What is pre-pregnancy care?

Pre-Pregnancy care is the health care a woman receives before she gets pregnant to help promote a healthy pregnancy.

Taking steps to make sure you are healthy and avoiding exposure to harmful behaviors and toxins before you get pregnant can decrease the chance of problems during pregnancy and improve the health of your child.

What is prenatal care?

Prenatal care is the health care a woman gets during pregnancy. Prenatal care should begin as soon as a woman knows or thinks she is pregnant. Early and regular prenatal visits are important for the health of both the mother and the fetus.

Research shows that prenatal care makes a difference for a healthy pregnancy. Women who do not seek prenatal care are three times as likely to deliver a low birth weight infant. Lack of prenatal care can also increase the risk of infant death.1

Citations

  1. Womenshealth.gov. (2009, March 6). Publications: Prenatal care fact sheet. Retrieved April 12, 2012, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/prenatal-care.html

Can you promote a healthy pregnancy before getting pregnant?

For women who are thinking about getting pregnant, following a health care provider's advice can reduce the risk of problems during pregnancy and after birth. A health care provider can recommend ways to get the proper nutrition and avoid habits that can have lasting harmful effects on a fetus.

For example, taking a supplement containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid before getting pregnant can reduce the risk of complications such as neural tube defects (NTDs)—abnormalities that can occur in the brain, spine, or spinal column of a developing fetus and are present at birth.1,2

A pre-pregnancy care visit with your health care provider can improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy. A health care provider will likely recommend that you do the following:

Citations

  1. NICHD.(2010). Healthy native babies: Workbook and toolkit. Retrieved May 23, 2012, from http://www1.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/ healthy_native_babies_workbook.pdf (PDF – 3.59 MB)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). A report of the CDC/ATSDR Preconception Care Work Group and the Select Panel on Preconception Care. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5506a1.htm
  3. Zhang, C., Liu, S., Solomon, C. G., & Hu, F. B. (2006). Dietary fiber intake, dietary glycemic load, and the risk for gestational diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care, 29(10), 2223–2230. Retrieved August 26, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17003297
  4. Chen, L.,Hu, F. B., Yeung, E., Willett, W., & Zhang, C. (2009). Prospective study of pre-gravid sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care, 32(12), 2236–2241. Retrieved August 26, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19940226
  5. Zhang, C., Schulze, M. B., Solomon, C. G., & Hu, F. B. (2006). A prospective study of dietary patterns, meat intake and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. Diabetologia, 49(11), 2604–2613. Retrieved August 26, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16957814
  6. Bao, W., Bowers, K., Tobias, D. K., Hu, F. B., & Zhang, C. (2013). Prepregnancy dietary protein intake, major dietary protein sources, and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: A prospective cohort study. Diabetes Care, 36(7), 2001–2008. Retrieved August 26, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23378620
  7. Kamen, B. (1997). Folate and antifolate pharmacology. Seminars in Oncology, 24(5 Suppl 18), S18-30–S18-39. PMID: 9420019
  8. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. (2016). Dietary supplement fact sheet: Folate.Retrieved July 10, 2012, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/
  9. Centers for Disease Control. (1992). Recommendations for the use of folic acid to reduce the number of cases of spina bifida and other neural tube defects. MMWR Recommendations and Reports,41(No. RR-14), 1–7. PMID: 1522835. Retrieved July 31, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00019479.htm
  10. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. (1998). Dietary reference intakes: Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  11. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). (2005). The importance of preconception care in the continuum of women's health care [ACOG Committee Opinion].Retrieved April 12, 2012, from http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Committee_Opinions/ Committee_on_Gynecologic_Practice/The_Importance_of_Preconception _Care_in_the_Continuum_of_Womens_Health_Care external link
  12. ACOG. (2015). Good health before pregnancy:Preconception care [ACOG FAQ056 Pregnancy]. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq056.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130422T1153356227 external link
  13. MRC Vitamin Study Research Group. (1991). Prevention of neural tube defects: Results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study. Lancet, 338(8760), 131–137. PMID: 1677062 and see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, February). National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities strategic plan 2011–2015. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/aboutus/documents/NCBDDD-Strategic-Plan-2017-2022-External.pdf (PDF – 1.24 MB)
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Preconception care and health care: Planning for pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/preconception/planning.html
  15. Pasquali, R., Patton, L., & Gambineri, A. (2007). Obesity and infertility. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, 14,482–487. PMID: 17982356
  16. NIH. (2010). Risk of newborn heart defects increases with maternal obesity [news release]. Retrieved May 19, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/Pages/ 040710-newborn-heart-defects.aspx
  17. Womenshealth.gov.(2009). Publications:Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet. Retrieved June 12, 2012, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/ our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.html
  18. NICHD. (2014). Healthy Pre-Pregnancy Diet and Exercise May Reduce Risk of Gestational Diabetes. Retrieved May 18, 2018, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/spotlight/082114-pregnancy-GDM

What pre-pregnancy tests might I need?

Talking to your health care provider about your health history and lifestyle habits is important. This information may prompt your health care provider to give you certain tests to find out if you have problems that could harm you or your fetus.

Your health care provider may test you for the following:

Citations

  1. Lu, M. C. (2007). Recommendations for preconception care. American Family Physician, 76, 397–400.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). HIV among pregnant women, infants, and children. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/gender/pregnantwomen/index.html
  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012). Preconception carrier screening. Retrieved May 3, 2013, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq179.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130422T1221088806 external link (PDF 313 KB)
  4. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2012). What I need to know about hepatitis C. Retrieved June 12, 2012, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/viral-hepatitis/hepatitis-c

What can I do to promote a healthy pregnancy?

Once you're pregnant, early and regular prenatal care is important to keep yourself and your developing infant healthy.

During your first prenatal visit, your health care provider may talk to you about the following ways to help have a healthy pregnancy:1

Citations

  1. March of Dimes. (2011). Your first prenatal care checkup. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/your-first-prenatal-care-checkup.aspx external link
  2. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. (2016). Dietary supplement fact sheet: Folate. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/
  3. KidsHealth from Nemours. (Reviewed October 2014). Folic acid and pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/your_pregnancy/preg_folic_acid.html external link
  4. Womenshealth.gov. (2012). ePublications: Prenatal care fact sheet. Retrieved June 27,2017, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/prenatal-care
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Preconception health and health care: Planning for pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/preconception/planning.html
  6. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation. Committee Opinion No. 637. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 126, 234–238. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/
    Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/
    Marijuana-Use-During-Pregnancy-and-Lactation
    external link
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs): Facts about FASDs. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html
  8. Eckstrand, K. L., Ding, Z., Dodge, N. C., Cowan, R. L., Jacobson, J. L., Jacobson, S.W., et al. (2012). Persistent dose-dependent changes in brain structure in young adults with low-to-moderate alcohol exposure in utero. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(11), 1892–1902. PMID: 22594302
  9. NICHD.(2013). Tobacco, drug use in pregnancy can double risk of stillbirth. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/Pages/
    121113-stillbirth-drug-use.aspx
  10. NICHD.(2016). Ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. Retrieved June 2, 2016, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/about/risk/Pages/reduce.aspx
  11. NICHD.(2016). Prenatal exposure to marijuana may disrupt fetal brain development, mouse study suggests. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/Pages/
    031516-prenatal-exposure-marijuana.aspx
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Treating for Two: Medicine and Pregnancy. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/meds/treatingfortwo/index.html
  13. Patrick, S. W., Dudley, J., Martin, P. R., Harrell, F. E., Warren, M. D., Hartmann, K. E., et al. (2015). Prescription opioid epidemic and infant outcomes. Pediatrics, 135(5), 842–850. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2015/04/08/peds.2014-3299 external link
  14. March of Dimes (2016). Is it safe? Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/stayingsafe_indepth.html external link
  15. Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. (2014). Lead and pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/lead-pregnancy/pdf external link (PDF 247 KB) 
  16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Cancer and long-term health effects of radiation exposure and contamination. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/emergencies/cancer.htm
  17. University of California, San Francisco. (2010). Toxic matters: Protecting our families from toxic substances. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from https://prhe.ucsf.edu/ external link
  18. Lanphear, B. P., Vorhees, C. V., & Bellinger, D. C. (2005). Protecting children from environmental toxins. PLOS Medicine, 2(3), e61.
  19. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Food safety for moms-to-be: While you're pregnant—methylmercury. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from https://www.fda.gov/food/people-risk-foodborne-illness/food-safety-moms-be
  20. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).(2010). Moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy [ACOG Committee Opinion]. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Committee_Opinions/
    Committee_on_Obstetric_Practice/Moderate_Caffeine_Consumption_During_Pregnancy
    external link
  21. KidsHealth from Nemours. (2014). Exercising during pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/your_pregnancy/exercising_pregnancy.html external link
  22. Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. (2009). Weight gain during pregnancy: Reexamining the guidelines. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/
    2009/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy-Reexamining-the-Guidelines/
    Report%20Brief%20-%20Weight%20Gain%20During%20Pregnancy.pdf
    external link (PDF 717 KB)
  23. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). (2013). Weight gain during pregnancy [ACOG Committee Opinion]. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Committee_Opinions/
    Committee_on_Obstetric_Practice/Weight_Gain_During_Pregnancy
    external link
  24. Johnson, J., Clifton, R. G., Roberts, J. M., Myatt. L., Hauth, J. C., Spong, C. Y., et al. (2013). Pregnancy outcomes with weight gain above or below the 2009 Institute of Medicine guidelines. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 121(5), 969–975. PMID: 23635732
  25. Allen, L. H. (2000). Anemia and iron deficiency: effects on pregnancy outcome. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(5), 1280s–1284s. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/5/1280s.full external link
  26. U.S.Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf (PDF 2.89 MB)
  27. NICHD. (2010). Pregnancy and healthy weight. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/spotlight/Pages/040710-pregnancy-healthy-weight.aspx
  28. March of Dimes. (2016). Gum and teeth change. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/yourbody_teeth.html external link
  29. National Child and Maternal Oral Health Resource Center. (n.d.) Oral Health Care During Pregnancy: A Consensus Statement. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.mchoralhealth.org/materials/consensus_statement.php.

What happens during prenatal visits?

What happens during prenatal visits varies depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy.

Schedule your first prenatal visit as soon as you think you are pregnant, even if you have confirmed your pregnancy with a home pregnancy test. Early and regular prenatal visits help your health care provider monitor your health and the growth of the fetus.

Citations

  1. American Pregnancy Association. (2015). Your first prenatal visit. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://americanpregnancy.org/planning/first-prenatal-visit/ external link
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2013). Frequently asked questions. FAQ027. Pregnancy. The Rh factor: How it can affect your pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq027.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120612T2325317701 external link (PDF 317 KB)
  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Frequently asked questions. FAQ133. Pregnancy: Routine tests in pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq133.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120612T2343414674 external link (PDF 72.4 KB)
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Updated recommendations for use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis vaccine (TDAP) in pregnant women―Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6207a4.htm

What tests might I need during pregnancy?

Every woman has certain tests during pregnancy. Some women, depending on their age, family history, or ethnicity, may undergo additional testing.

Some tests are screening tests, and others are diagnostic tests. If your health care provider orders a screening test, keep in mind that such tests do not diagnose problems. They evaluate risk. So a screening test result that comes back abnormal does not mean there is a problem with your infant. It means that more information is needed. Your health care provider can explain what the test results mean and possible next steps.

The types of tests you may have during pregnancy include:1

Citations

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Frequently asked questions. FAQ133. Pregnancy: Routine tests during pregnancy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq133.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120612T2343414674 external link (PDF 72.4 KB)
  2. Anderson, C. L., & Brown, C. L. (2009). Fetal chromosomal abnormalities: Antenatal screening and diagnosis. American Family Physician, 79, 11–123.
  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Committee Opinion Number 640: Cell-free DNA screening for fetal aneuploidy. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26287791 external link
  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011). Committee Opinion Number 486: Update on carrier screening for cystic fibrosis. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21422883 external link
  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2013). Frequently asked questions. FAQ098. Pregnancy: Special tests for monitoring fetal health. January 6, 2016, from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq098.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120612T2356425318 external link (PDF 327 KB)

What health problems can develop during pregnancy?

Regular prenatal visits help the health care provider identify potential health problems early and take steps to manage them, to protect the health of the mother and the developing fetus. Being aware of the symptoms of these conditions and getting regular prenatal care can prevent health problems and help you get treatment as early as possible.

These problems include:1

Citations

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Pregnancy Complications. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/
    maternalinfanthealth/pregcomplications.htm
  2. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2015). Dietary supplement fact sheet: Iron. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
  3. MedlinePlus. (2015). Iron deficiency anemia. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000584.htm
  4. DeSisto, C. L., Kim, S. Y., & Sharma, A. J. (2014). Prevalence estimates of gestational diabetes mellitus in the United States, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Systems (PRAMS), 2007–2010. Preventing Chronic Disease, 11, E104.
  5. NICHD. (2012). Fact sheet: Am I at risk for gestational diabetes? NIH Publication No. 12-4818. Retrieved January 6, 2016 from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/gestational_diabetes_2012.pdf (PDF 187 KB)
  6. Womenshealth.gov. (2012). ePublications: Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.html
  7. Milgrom, J., Gemmill, A. W., Bilszta, J. L., Hayes, B., Barnett, B., Brooks, J., et al. (2008). Antenatal risk factors for postnatal depression: A large prospective study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 108(1–2), 147–157.
  8. MedlinePlus. (2014). Miscarriage. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001488.htm

Who is at increased risk of health problems during pregnancy?

Some women are at increased risk for health problems during pregnancy.

Important risk factors include the following:

  • Overweight and obesity.1 Being overweight or obese increases the risk for complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Infants of overweight or obese mothers also have an increased risk of their babies having neural tube defects (NTDs) or congenital heart defects and being stillborn or being large for their gestational age.
  • Young or old maternal age. According to the CDC, more women age 35 and older are giving birth than ever before.2 While common, pregnancy after age 35 does increase the risk for complications during pregnancy such as stillbirth and for NTDs.3 In addition, teenage mothers are more likely to deliver early, putting their infant at risk for complications.4
  • Problems in previous pregnancies. Women who have experienced preeclampsia, stillbirth, or preterm labor before or who have had an infant born small for gestational age are at increased risk for problems during the current pregnancy.
  • Existing health conditions. Certain health conditions increase the risk for complications during pregnancy, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and HIV.
  • Pregnancy with twins or other multiples. Women who are expecting more than one baby are at increased risk for preeclampsia and preterm birth.

Women with high-risk pregnancies may need more frequent care and may need care from a team of health care providers to help promote healthy pregnancy and birth.5

For the latest information on COVID-19 and pregnancy, visit CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html.

Citations

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2012). Do you know some of the health risks of being overweight? Retrieved January 6, 2016, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Births in the United States, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2018, from  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db287.htm
  3. March of Dimes. (2013). A mommy after 35. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/trying_after35.html external link
  4. MedlinePlus. (2016). Teenage pregnancy. Retrieved September 8, 2016, from https://medlineplus.gov/teenagepregnancy.html
  5. NICHD. (2013). What is a high-risk pregnancy? Retrieved January 6, 2016, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/Pages/high-risk.aspx

Will stress during pregnancy affect my baby?

It is normal to feel some stress during pregnancy. Your body is going through many changes, and as your hormones change, so do your moods.

Too much stress can cause you to have trouble sleeping, headaches, loss of appetite, or a tendency to overeat—all of which can be harmful to you and your developing baby.

High levels of stress can also cause high blood pressure, which increases your chance of having preterm labor or a low-birth-weight infant.1

You should talk about stress with your health care provider and loved ones. If you are feeling stress because of uncertainty or fear about becoming a mother, experiencing work-related stress, or worrying about miscarriage, talk to your health care provider during your prenatal visits.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Pregnancy

PTSD is a more serious type of stress that can negatively affect your baby. PTSD occurs when you have problems after seeing or going through a painful event, such as rape, abuse, a natural disaster, or the death of a loved one. You may experience:2

  • Anxiety
  • Flashbacks and upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Strong physical reactions to situations, people, or things that remind you of the event
  • Avoidance of places, activities, and people you once enjoyed
  • Feeling more aware of things
  • Guilt

PTSD during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. PTSD also increases the risk for behaviors such as smoking and drinking, which contribute to other problems.1

Reducing stress is important for preventing problems during your pregnancy and for reducing your risk for health problems that may affect your developing child. Identify the source of your stress and take steps to remove it or lessen it. Make sure you get enough exercise (under a doctor's supervision), eat healthy foods, and get lots of sleep.

Some women experience extreme sadness and/or anxiety during pregnancy and after giving birth. Many sources of information and support are available to help women experiencing depression or anxiety. Moms' Mental Health Matters explains some signs of these problems and provides an action plan for getting help. Talk to your health care provider if you feel overwhelmed, sad, or anxious. Treatment and counseling can help.

Read the story of how a new mother was affected by depression after giving birth, and the steps she took with her care provider to overcome it.

Citations

  1. March of Dimes. (2012). Stress and pregnancy. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/stress-and-pregnancy.aspx external link
  2. National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). NIH Publication No. 08-6388. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

NICHD Pre-Pregnancy Care and Prenatal Care Research Goals

Promoting a healthy pregnancy is paramount to NICHD, which leads and supports studies to increase awareness of the need for pre-pregnancy and prenatal care.

Studies include efforts focused on:

  • Preparing for a healthy pregnancy. NICHD supports pre-pregnancy care to help promote the health of all women of reproductive age before conception to improve pregnancy-related outcomes.
  • Preventing neural tube defects. Research from NICHD and other organizations led the U.S. Public Health Service to recommend that all women capable of becoming pregnant get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Taking folic acid prior to conception can reduce the risk for neural tube defects, a primary goal of NICHD research.
  • Reducing the risk of complications during pregnancy. NICHD seeks to understand maternal physiology, genetic and environmental variables, and conditions and treatments during pregnancy that contribute to adverse outcomes. Research is focused on discovering the mechanisms involved in the pathophysiological states of pregnancy such as preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and stillbirth, as well as the health impact of pregnancy-related disorders on the mother and infant and the effect of maternal infections on fetal development. The researchers aim to improve treatment and prevention, learn more about the effects of maternal medications and the mother's use and abuse of drugs on fetal development, and understand more about the complications that pregnant adolescents may encounter.
  • Supporting studies related to the probable causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). These studies include the association between prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, with the goal of improving prenatal screening tools to identify infants at risk for SIDS and ultimately decreasing fetal and infant mortality.

Pre-Pregnancy Care and Prenatal Care Research Activities and Advances

Pre-Pregnancy care and prenatal care are critical components of promoting a healthy pregnancy. NICHD supports and conducts a broad range of research projects to increase the likelihood of a healthy birth. Short descriptions of this research are included below.

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