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Prevention in Pregnant Women

By James T. Pacala, MD, MS, Professor and Associate Head, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School

Prenatal care (see Medical Care During Pregnancy) is focused on recognizing and preventing problems that can complicate pregnancy (see Complications of Pregnancy). For example, pregnant women are screened for high blood pressure, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, Rh0(D) blood incompatibility (which can cause hemolytic disease of the newborn), urinary bacteria, genetic variations that could result in birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, preeclampsia, and usually placental and fetal abnormalities (using ultrasonography). Before (if possible) and during pregnancy, women are given folate (folic acid) to prevent birth defects. Often during pregnancy, women also are given iron to prevent anemia. They are counseled to stop using tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy.