Hesperian Health Guides
Prenatal Care (Check‑ups during Pregnancy)
Prenatal check-ups are important to find and take care of problems early--before they become dangerous. Good prenatal care is not difficult to give and does not require very expensive equipment. It can save many lives.
If you are pregnant, try to have at least 3 check-ups:
1. As soon as you think you are pregnant.
2. Around the 6th month of pregnancy.
3. A month before the baby is due.
Prenatal check-ups can help you decide the best place to have your baby: at home, or at a health center or hospital.
A midwife or health worker will ask about past pregnancies and births, including any problems, such as a lot of bleeding or babies that died. This information can help you both prepare for similar problems in this pregnancy. A midwife may also be able to:
- make sure a woman is eating well enough and suggest ways for her to eat better food, if necessary.
- give iron and folic acid tablets, which help prevent anemia and birth defects.
- examine the mother, to make sure she is healthy and that the baby is growing well.
- give vaccinations to prevent tetanus, a disease that can kill both mothers and babies.
- give medicine to prevent malaria if it is common in the area.
- give tests for HIV and syphilis, along with other sexually transmitted infections.
- give medicines to prevent a woman's HIV from spreading to her baby.
To check whether the baby is healthy, a midwife may listen for the baby's heartbeat. It may be possible to hear it by putting one ear against the woman's abdomen, but often you cannot tell the baby's heartbeat apart from the mother's. It is easier with a fetoscope. Another sign the baby is healthy is if the mother feels the baby move every day, and if she has felt it move on the day of the check-up.