Prenatal Care

Fact checked Medically reviewed

Medically reviewed by Brenda G., MD | Written by SheCares Editorial Team | Updated: Dec 26, 2021

According to the last available statistics from 2016, out of almost four million live births in the United States, 77.1% of mothers-to-be received early prenatal care, with 6.2% receiving late or no prenatal care at all1.

One of the objectives of the Healthy People 2020 government program is to increase the proportion of expectant mothers accessing adequate prenatal care in the first trimester to 77.9% by the year 20202. Though current statistics might not seem far from the target, there are still many pregnant women without proper care, making it essential to promote the significance of prenatal care for better pregnancy outcomes.

Keep on reading to learn the most essential information about prenatal care, including what it is, why is prenatal care important, what does good prenatal care consist of, and what is the cost of prenatal services.

Prenatal care

What is Prenatal Care?

Prenatal care, or antenatal care, is the care a woman receives from the moment she becomes pregnant until birth. It is aimed at improving pregnancy outcomes.

While women usually receive prenatal care through their selected obstetrician-gynecologists' (OBGYN) private offices, some might obtain it through local hospitals, community clinics, and other government facilities.

It is worth mentioning that good prenatal care should begin even before conceiving with proper pre-pregnancy planning. This might include a preconception check-up with one's doctor to review one's current health status, manage chronic conditions before getting pregnant, and learn to estimate ovulation.

Benefits of Prenatal Care

Benefits of prenatal care

Studies have shown that the benefits of prenatal care are observed not only during pregnancy, but also in postpartum, seeing as it decreases maternal and child morbidity and mortality.

The benefits of prenatal care throughout all pregnancy stages include, but are not limited to, the following3, 4, 5, 6

What does Good Prenatal Care Consist of?

Good prenatal care

Good prenatal care combines regular doctor's visits with timely prenatal testing as well as maternal wholesome practices. Early and regular is key.

Prenatal Doctor's Visits

The first prenatal visit is usually scheduled around the 8th week of pregnancy. Afterwards, most appointments will take place on a monthly basis until the end of the second trimester (28 weeks). In the weeks 28 to 36 of the third trimester, they will be scheduled every two-three weeks and then weekly thereafter (weeks 36-40)7.

Prenatal Tests

Prenatal tests are an inseparable part of antenatal care. While most of them take place in the doctor's office, including pregnancy ultrasounds and prenatal blood and urine tests, more advanced types of prenatal genetic testing, such as amniocentesis, might be arranged at a specialized facility.

Wholesome Prenatal Practices

Keeping up with various antenatal testing is as important as taking care of oneself outside the doctor's clinic. During pregnancy, an OBGYN typically provides guidance on how to have a healthy pregnancy and ensure that the baby has a proper environment for his or her development. Topics advised by the OBGYN may include:

Prenatal Care Cost

Prenatal care cost

Pregnancy is known to be costly. The average cost of having a baby, including prenatal care and vaginal delivery, is almost $13,000. The cost can go up to almost $17,000 if a C-section is performed.

Cost of Prenatal Care with Insurance

All private insurers are obligated to provide maternity care or childbirth insurance. However, depending on one's specific coverage, this prenatal insurance can still include co-payments, co-insurances, and deductibles that are covered out-of-pocket by the insured. 

Cost of Prenatal Care without Insurance

The cost of prenatal care without insurance depends on a number of factors, including one's location, progression of pregnancy itself, and type of birth, among others. Those expectant mothers who are not insured and cannot afford prenatal insurance can receive antenatal care throughout numerous state and federal programs.

Key Takeaways

Although for most expectant women reaching for adequate prenatal care is a natural impulse and an integral part of being pregnant, for others, access to prenatal care is a challenge. The type and quality of medical care as well as a mother's own practices have crucial effects on the progression and outcomes of her pregnancy. Good prenatal care implemented early in the first trimester has been found to dramatically decrease the rates of premature birth, low birth weights, and neonatal death, among other complications. It consists of adequate prenatal vitamins, regularly scheduled doctor's visits, timely prenatal tests, and wholesome habits, including diet, exercise, and stress relief. Although the cost of prenatal care is universally known to be high, specific expenses will depend on individual coverage or pregnancy progression. For uninsured mothers-to-be, there are many government programs available so that the lack of prenatal care insurance will not be an obstacle in receiving the care they need and deserve.