Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Pregnancy: Introduction

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HealthWiki > A Book for Midwives > Pregnancy: Introduction


All women need care and attention during pregnancy. This care is usually called prenatal or antenatal care. Prenatal care helps pregnant women be healthier and have fewer problems in birth. Prenatal care should come from the woman herself, from her family and the community, and from a midwife or someone else who is experienced in helping pregnant women.

In some places, midwives only care for women when they are in labor or giving birth, not during pregnancy. This may be because most of the time, people only go to a healer or doctor when they are sick or if something is wrong. Pregnancy is usually normal and healthy, so people may not think that prenatal care is important. But most midwives know that women who have good care during pregnancy are more likely to have safer births and healthier babies.

Care in pregnancy has 2 purposes:
  1. Observing and listening to the pregnant woman by checking her body for healthy signs and warning signs and by asking her about problems or listening to her questions.
  2. Teaching a woman how to have a healthier pregnancy (for example, how to eat a healthy diet and how to avoid harmful things).


Midwives should start prenatal care as soon as a woman knows she is pregnant, and should examine the woman regularly during the pregnancy. We call these meetings “checkups.” If possible, every woman should have at least 4 checkups.

Doing more checkups will give you more chances to share important information and to prevent health problems. And any woman who has warning signs should have checkups more often.

This section is divided into 3 different chapters:

  • Chapter 6 explains the changes a woman may go through in pregnancy.
  • Chapter 7 explains how to learn about a woman’s health history during the first checkup.
  • Chapter 8 explains how to check a woman for healthy signs and warning signs at each checkup.


women hanging a sign that reads: "Pregnant? Come to the clinic for your prenatal care."


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