Information for Pregnant Women
If you are pregnant, there are steps you can take to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
What You Should Do
Some of the best things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy and baby are to:
- Talk with a healthcare provider as early as possible.
- Get regular prenatal care.
- Use local services that can help support you and your family.
Talk with a healthcare provider
If you know you are pregnant, or think you might be, call your doctor or other healthcare provider to schedule a visit. Whether or not this is your first pregnancy, early care will help keep you and your baby healthy. If you are stressed or scared about your pregnancy, your healthcare provider can also provide information and support. Care is best provided in a continuous manner with the same healthcare provider or patient-centered medical home, where many healthcare providers work as a team. If you do not have a primary healthcare provider, there are a number of places you can get no or low-cost healthcare services, even if you are uninsured. (more)
Get regular prenatal care
Prenatal care is the healthcare you get while you are pregnant. It helps keep you and your baby healthy. Go to all the appointments your healthcare provider schedules for you while you are pregnant—they are all important.
Don't rush your baby's birth day
Your baby needs at least 39 weeks to grow and develop before she is born. If your pregnancy is healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own. A healthy baby is worth the wait. (video more)
Take a prenatal class
Prenatal classes can help you prepare for labor, birth, and early parenthood. Check with your local birthing hospital to learn about classes and to sign up.
Learn about resources offered by your health insurance company
Many health insurance companies offer special programs for pregnant women, such as free breastfeeding or prenatal classes. Check with your health insurance company for more information.
Apply for WIC benefits
The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program provides many services for eligible families, including breastfeeding support, medical and social service referrals, and checks for healthy foods. (more)
Apply for temporary cash assistance
The Department of Human Services (DHS) Rhode Island Works Program offers eligible pregnant women temporary cash assistance, health coverage, child care assistance, and help finding job training or a job. To learn more or to apply, contact your local DHS office. (more)
Keep yourself and your baby healthy
- Take a vitamin with 400-800 micrograms of folic acid every day to help prevent birth defects. (more)
- Tell your healthcare provider about any medicines you are taking, including those prescribed by other healthcare providers during the pregnancy (e.g., pain medicines from the dentist).
- Get the flu and Tdap vaccines. These vaccines will protect you and your baby before and after birth. (more)
- Get all the tests your healthcare provider recommends during your pregnancy. These tests check for potential problems for you and your baby. If found, many of these can be treated during pregnancy.
- Take care of yourself. Eat smart, exercise safely, get plenty of sleep, and find ways to control stress.
Avoid things that could harm you or your baby
- Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, and take prescription medicines as directed. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while you are pregnant. Local help is available for drug and alcohol use. (more)
- Take special care when eating fish or shellfish that may contain mercury and avoid foods that are unsafe to eat during pregnancy.
- Follow food safety alerts and avoid recalled food. (more)
- Protect your baby from lead poisoning. (more)
- Avoid contact with chemicals and toxins or materials that could cause infection.
- Stay away from cat and rodent waste. If you own a cat, ask your healthcare provider about toxoplasmosis. You can lower your risk of getting this infection by having a non-pregnant person change the litter box. (more)
- If you think you might be in an abusive relationship, contact the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence or the 24 hour/day Rhode Island Victims of Crime helpline to get help.
Get ready for your baby's arrival
- Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding, and find local support services. (more)
- Learn about the health screenings your new baby will receive. (more)
- Consider requesting a free, confidential home visit to address any questions or concerns you may have. (more)
- Pack your hospital bag ahead of time and make plans for child care while you are at the hospital, if needed.
- Talk with your partner and your healthcare provider about birth control options before your baby is born. If you plan to have more children, discuss your family planning goals. (more)
- Find a child health provider for your newborn. Care is best provided in a continuous manner with the same patient-centered medical home. In these settings, many healthcare providers work as a team to improve the health of families. You may also want to ask friends, neighbors, and relatives for a suggestion or call for a prenatal interview. You will be seeing this person a lot in the first year for check ups, so make sure the location and their style works for you.
- Find local health information for new parents. (more)
Make your home and car safe for baby
- Learn how to put your baby "safe to sleep" for every sleep. This will reduce your baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths. (more)
- Protect yourself and your baby while driving in the car by following seat belt and riding safety tips. (more)
- Learn how to properly install a child safety seat in your car. Safe Kids Rhode Island has a schedule of car seat check events across the state. Your local child passenger safety technician can also teach you how to install your child safety seat.
- Know how to protect your baby from serious falls at home. (more)
- Keep your home smoke-free after your baby is born. Quitting is hard, but not impossible. (more)
- Make your home lead-safe. (more)
- Get rid of out-of-date medications. Store those you use safely.
- Put the regional Poison Control Number (1-800-222-1222) on your fridge. You can also order poison control brochures, stickers, and magnets for free online.
What We Do
- Offer free home visits to pregnant women and families with young children. (more)
- Oversee newborn health screening. (more)
- Link families with WIC Program services. (more)
- Collaborate with and support healthcare providers to decrease the rate of premature births and increase the number of planned pregnancies in Rhode Island. (more)
- Collaborate with and support healthcare providers and community groups working to increase breastfeeding rates in Rhode Island. (more)
- Coordinate statewide efforts to reduce lead exposure in children and create safer living environments for all Rhode Islanders. (more)
- Provide services to help smokers quit and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. (more)