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One of the most significant life events that demonstrate the female body’s uniqueness and the need for specialized care is a pregnancy. Pregnancy can be an exciting and bewildering time.

Often, women of childbearing age will seek care prior to embarking on a pregnancy, a time called “preconception planning.” During this time, it is important to follow certain steps to ensure a healthy and successful pregnancy, such as abstinence from smoking and drinking, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and rest, and taking a prenatal vitamin. Before a pregnancy, some women may also seek guidance regarding fertility and specific ways to assist with fertility.

Once you discover you are pregnant, your healthcare needs will change again. Starting from the time that you discover you are pregnant until the time you deliver your baby, you will likely be seeing your healthcare provider more frequently than you ever have before. Many evaluations will be recommended to ensure that you have a successful and healthy pregnancy.

Planning Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks, or just over 9 months, as measured from the last menstrual period to delivery. Your body will change as your baby grows during your pregnancy.

You need to have regular visits with your physician. These prenatal care visits are essential to the health of your baby and yourself. If you do not have a regular physician, you can find one using our Local Physician Guide. Don't hesitate to call your physician if you think you experience a problem or have concerns.


When you are pregnant, you have a higher need for some vitamins and minerals. Make choices that limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats. Choose vegetable oils instead of butter, and oil-based sauces and dips instead of ones with butter, cream, or cheese. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot replace a healthy diet. Most doctors recommend that pregnant women take a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement every day in addition to eating a healthy diet.

Pregnant women and women who may become pregnant should not drink alcohol. Drinks containing alcohol include beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks, malt beverages, etc. Heavy drinking during pregnancy can result in serious problems for your baby, including malformation and developmental delays.

What to Expect

Health care providers refer to three segments of pregnancy, called trimesters.

First Trimester (Week 1 to Week 12)

Second Trimester (Week 13 to Week 28)

Between 18 and 20 weeks, the typical timing for an ultrasound to look for birth defects, you can often find out the sex of your baby. At 20 weeks, a woman may begin to feel movement. At 24 weeks, footprints and fingerprints have formed and the fetus sleeps and wakes regularly.

Third Trimester (Week 29 to Week 40)

At 32 weeks, the bones are soft and yet almost fully formed, and the eyes can open and close. Infants born before 37 weeks are considered preterm. Infants born in the 37th and 38th weeks of pregnancy are considered “early term.”

Infants born at 39 or 40 weeks of pregnancy are considered full term. Full-term infants have better health outcomes than do infants born earlier or, in some cases, later than this period. If there is no medical reason to deliver earlier, it is best to deliver at or after 39 weeks to give the infant’s lungs, brain, and liver time to fully develop.

Prenatal Care

If you suspect you may be pregnant, schedule a visit to your health care provider to begin prenatal care. Prenatal visits to a health care provider usually include a physical exam, weight checks, and providing a urine sample. Depending on the stage of the pregnancy, physicians may also do blood tests and imaging tests, such as ultrasound exams. These visits also include discussions about the mother's health, the fetus's health, and any questions about the pregnancy.

Depending on the stage of the pregnancy, physicians may also do blood tests and imaging tests, such as ultrasound exams. These visits also include discussions about your health, the fetus's health, and any questions about the pregnancy.

Getting prenatal care can help you have a healthier baby. It also lowers the risk of your baby being born too early.

What is an Obstetrician?

An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in pregnancy, labor, and birth. They receive specialized education in the area of the female reproductive system and surgical care. Much of their education focuses on the detection and management of obstetrical and gynecological problems.

Choosing an Obstetrician

Lompoc Valley Medical Center maintains a comprehensive directory of highly qualified local physicians.

Use our directory to find an Obstetrician.