Prenatal Health

How well you take care of yourself during pregnancy has a direct effect on the health of your baby. You can find information on a variety of topics including: vitamins and supplements, nutrition and exercise, and prenatal tests.

General Information

Although each pregnancy is unique, certain changes are common to all normal pregnancies. A basic understanding of physical and emotional changes of pregnancy helps a woman to understand pregnancy and have a positive experience.

  • Preconceptual Counseling. If you are having sex and you are capable of becoming pregnant, you should be taking 0.4 mg. of folic acid each day in case you become pregnant–even if you are not planning to become pregnant for a long time.
  • Travel During Pregnancy. Traveling during pregnancy can be very enjoyable. Through the first two trimesters and into the third, it is perfectly safe to travel as long as you are not experiencing any complications and your doctor has not indicated any reasons for prohibiting travel.
  • The average recommended weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds.

Birth Defects

  • About 3% to 5% of babies are born with birth defects. A healthy lifestyle can prevent some of these.
  • Down Syndrome. Down syndrome is a birth defect that occurs in approximately 1 in 900 births. It is the most common birth defect.
  • Chorionic Villus Sampling. Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a procedure used to diagnose certain birth defects in the first trimester of pregnancy. The test has been performed regularly since 1982, and thousands have been performed around the world.
  • Amniocentesis. Amniocentesis is a procedure performed on pregnant women in their second trimester to diagnose or rule out birth defects.
  • The consumption of vitamin A at levels at or above 10,000 IU (200% of the Daily Value, or DV), or 3000 Retinol equivalents (REs), and some types of birth defects has raised serious public health concerns.

Prenatal Testing

  • Home pregnancy kits provide privacy and fast results, and can detect pregnancy as early as 6 days after conception, or 1 day after a missed menstrual period.
  • A variety of prenatal tests are available. While not all patients need or will have all the various tests, it is good to know that they are available.
  • Alpha-Fetoprotein Test. The AFP test identifies pregnancies at higher-than-average risk of certain serious birth defects, such as spina bifida (open spine) and Down syndrome.
  • Fetal Well-Being Tests. These tests are designed to evaluate the status of the placenta and whether or not oxygen and nutrition transferred to the fetus are being affected.
  • Triple Screen Test. The Triple Screen is a prenatal blood test that measures alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and unconjugated estriol (uE3). The test is performed between the 12th and 19th week of pregnancy to provide you and your doctor valuable information about you and your growing fetus.
  • Ultrasound. Pregnancy ultrasound is a method of imaging the fetus and the female pelvic organs during pregnancy. The ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which reflect off body structures to create a picture.


Even before pregnancy begins, nutrition is a primary factor in the health of mother and baby. A well-balanced diet before conception contributes to a healthy pregnancy and will probably need few changes.

One of the most important things a woman can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy for herself and her baby is to eat a well-balanced diet. Good nutrition during pregnancy is essential to creating an environment that allows the baby to grow and flourish.When you are pregnant, your baby grows inside you. Everything you eat and drink while you are pregnant affects your baby.

Healthcare officials have issued a new advisory on the dangers of eating fish. Healthcare officials are concerned that the level of mercury in fish might pose certain risks to a developing fetus.



Since 1984, all OTC drug products have carried the following warning:  As with any other drug, if you are pregnant or nursing, seek the advice of a health professional before using this product. Most women are immunized against certain diseases at a young age. When this doesn’t occur, immunizations become an important part of prenatal care.

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS, a disorder characterized by growth retardation, facial abnormalies, and central nervous system dysfunction (CNS), is caused by a woman’s use of alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Intrauterine Growth Retardation. Intrauterine growth retardation is used to describe an infant whose weight is significantly less than expected for its gestational age.
  • Macrosomia. Macrosomia is a term used in obstetrics and gynecology to describe large fetuses/infants. The incidence of greater than 4000 gram (approximately 8 pound infants) is approximately 5%, the incidence of greater than 4500 gram infants (approximately 9 pound infants) is approximately 0.5 to 1%.
  • Tay-Sachs Disease. Tay-Sachs Disease is an inherited, neurodegenerative disorder found in eastern European Jewish families and some French-Canadian families. It is characterized by progressive mental and physical retardation and early death.
  • Stillbirth. Stillbirth is defined as the death of a fetus between the 20th week (5th month) of pregnancy and birth. This is a particularly devastating problem for the parents and physician.