If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, the odds are that prenatal care has been the furthest thing from your mind. After all, you had no intentions to become pregnant — so why bother taking the time to frequently see your obstetrician outside of your yearly appointment?

However, you may be thinking differently now that you’ve found out you are pregnant. You may be extremely worried about having no prenatal care during pregnancy, however far along you may be in your own journey. During this time, you may have a few big questions:

Can you get in trouble for no prenatal care?

What should I be worried about when having a baby without prenatal care?

What are the effects of no prenatal care on my baby and me?

First off, take a deep breath. You’re not the only woman who has mistakenly avoided prenatal care during your pregnancy, and you won’t be the last. You have nothing to be ashamed of; if you didn’t expect yourself to be pregnant and didn’t know you were pregnant, how could you be expected to get prenatal care?

If you have been pregnant with no prenatal care up until this point, there is one thing you should know: You should make it your goal to obtain prenatal care as soon as possible to keep you and your unborn baby as healthy as possible. No matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, seeing a doctor should be your first step after reading this article.

In the meantime, you can find out more about insufficient prenatal care — and how it can affect your pregnancy — below.

Can You Get in Trouble for Not Having Prenatal Care?

It’s common knowledge that expectant mothers should receive prenatal care during their pregnancy. But, for some women, prenatal care isn’t readily accessible. Worried about the effects of insufficient prenatal care on themselves and their babies, they may also worry about other repercussions, asking:

Is it illegal to not get prenatal care?

There are no laws in the United States requiring expectant mothers to obtain prenatal care. Receiving medical care can be a highly personal decision, and the U.S. government treads lightly in forcing individuals to receive or not to receive certain care during their lives. So, legally, you cannot get in trouble for not having prenatal care — but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other repercussions for you and your child should you refrain from receiving medical care.

No Prenatal Care: Consequences and Risks

There’s a reason why prenatal care is so encouraged by medical professionals around the world: It is incredibly important for protecting both expectant mother and child.

Having a baby without prenatal care opens you (and your baby) to all kinds of potential risks and complications. While there is always the chance that you and your baby will be perfectly fine with no prenatal care, there is a greater chance that something can go wrong, an underlying condition can go undetected or another health issue may befall you or your child.

Before you decide to refrain from receiving prenatal care at all, consider these risks of no prenatal care during pregnancy:

  • Pregnancy complications, including conditions such as gestational diabetes, miscarriage, high blood pressure, preeclampsia and more
  • Negative effects on the baby, such as preterm delivery or low birth weight
  • Worsening of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart problems
  • Ante- and post-partum depression and other mental illnesses

Perhaps the most stunning statistic of all? Babies whose mothers received no prenatal care are five times more likely to die than those whose mothers received regular prenatal care.

Clearly, a pregnancy without prenatal care is a dangerous pregnancy, even if you have no known health conditions or pre-determined pregnancy risks. Don’t take the risk: Find local prenatal care as early as possible in your pregnancy.

Finding Yourself Pregnant with No Prenatal Care Possibilities?

For some women, finding prenatal care seems like an impossible task. Perhaps they are not financially independent, do not have insurance, are not located near a medical professional or have other obstacles in their lives preventing them from obtaining care. For these women, a lack of prenatal care may seem like an unavoidable part of the next nine months.

However, obtaining prenatal care can be done; you do not have to continue your pregnancy without prenatal care or settle for poor prenatal care. It may just take a little more effort on your part.

Here are some tips for finding a prenatal care program that works for your needs:

  • Search for low-cost, affordable prenatal care providers, such as local family-planning clinics or organizations like Planned Parenthood.
  • Ask your friends and family and other medical professionals for recommendations in your area.
  • Contact a local pregnancy counseling service for guidance and assistance.
  • Consider placing your child for adoption, at which time you will receive free prenatal care.

Don’t be afraid to start your prenatal care protocol, no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy. A good doctor will not shame you but instead celebrate you for your brave decision.

We know that being pregnant with no prenatal care isn’t anyone’s ideal situation. But, with a little effort, you can still obtain the prenatal care you and your baby need for healthy pregnancy and start to your lives together.