You are using a browser we no longer support. Current functionality may be reduced and some features may not work properly. For a more optimal experience, please click here for a list of supported browsers.

What you need to know about prenatal care

GEHA | March 7, 2024

Prenatal care is essential to a safe and healthy birth. Even if an at-home test has confirmed a person’s pregnancy, it’s important to schedule a prenatal visit with a physician.

What is prenatal care and why is it important?

Prenatal care is the specialized health care a woman may receive during pregnancy. Regular prenatal visits allow a health care professional to monitor the health of the mother and baby throughout the pregnancy.

There are not many things as important as prenatal care during pregnancy. According to the Office on Women’s Health, women who don’t receive prenatal care are at least three times more likely to have complications at birth.

With regular prenatal visits, expecting mothers can:

  • Reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and promote healthy fetal development
  • Reduce the baby’s risk of complications, such as intellectual disability and heart problems
  • Help ensure any medications being taken are safe
  • Find answers to any pregnancy-related questions or concerns

What to expect during prenatal visits

The first prenatal visit should occur within the first trimester, and the frequency of visits increase as the pregnancy progresses.

According to Mayo Clinic, an initial prenatal visit may include:

  • A discussion about the pregnant person’s personal and family medical history
  • A due date estimate
  • A physical exam, which may include a breast exam, pelvic exam, Pap test and exam of the heart, lungs and thyroid
  • Lab tests, including blood tests, STI and AIDS tests and immunity checks for infections like chickenpox and rubella
  • Ultrasounds and various screenings tests to check for fetal concerns
  • Conversation about any pregnancy discomforts or lifestyle issues

The following schedule is likely after the initial visit, according to Cleveland Clinic:

  • Weeks 4–8: One prenatal visit every four weeks
  • Weeks 28–36: One prenatal visit every two weeks
  • Weeks 36–40: One prenatal visit every week

Prenatal care for high-risk pregnancy

If a pregnancy is high-risk, it means the baby or mother may have a health issue. Factors contributing to high-risk pregnancy can include the following, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • The mother is younger than 20 or older than 35
  • The mother smokes often, drinks alcohol or abuses drugs
  • The mother has certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid conditions or heart disease
  • The mother or baby develops complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia
  • The mother is pregnant with multiple fetuses

With proper prenatal care, it can be possible to have a safe and healthy pregnancy despite it being high-risk. Women with high-risk pregnancy — or who want to prevent one — should thoroughly discuss the condition with their health care provider and closely adhere to the care plan provided.

How can GEHA help?

Be sure to schedule a prenatal appointment with your doctor early in your pregnancy. Remember, by continuing to have regular prenatal appoints with your doctor, you can reduce the risk of complications for you and your baby and potentially save you or your baby’s life. If you haven’t yet selected a health care provider, GEHA can help you find a provider near you so you can get started with your prenatal visits.

GEHA members who complete a first trimester visit may be eligible for Health Rewards. Additionally, GEHA offers a free maternity resource packet filled with information about pregnancy, prenatal care and your maternity benefits.

Have you attended a webinar?

Every month, GEHA hosts a free webinar designed to offer ways to live a healthier life. Check out our upcoming offerings on aging gracefully, mindfulness and financial well-being. You can view past webinars, too.

View 2024 webinars

“Prenatal care.”, Office on Women’s Health, 22 February, 2021.
“High-risk pregnancy: Know what to expect.”, Mayo Clinic, 25 January, 2024.
“Pregnant? Here’s How Often You’ll Likely See Your Doctor.”, Cleveland Clinic, 13 January, 2022.
“Prenatal care: 1st trimester visits.”, Mayo Clinic, 6 August, 2022.

The information contained herein is for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and if you have questions regarding a medical condition, regimen, or treatment you should always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice from a qualified medical professional because of information you have read herein.

This is a brief description of the features of Government Employees Health Association, Inc.'s medical plans. Before making a final decision, please read the GEHA Federal brochures. All benefits are subject to the definitions, limitations and exclusions set forth in the Federal brochures