Dr. Wayne Mineer is an obstetrician who’s been in practice for more than 35 years and delivered more than 3,500 babies. We at Unplanned Pregnancy thought it would be good to have a doctor tell us just why prenatal care is so important.

“It’s important to ensure the health of the baby and ensure the health of the mother—that’s the bottom line,” Dr. Mineer says.

According to Mineer, choosing not to have prenatal care, or even just procrastinating, can have some serious consequences. He says intrauterine growth retardation and congenital defects can go undetected without prenatal care, or you may not know that your baby is in a breech position. According to Mineer, breech births have many more complications, but if you are aware of them ahead of time, steps can be taken to correct the baby’s breech position.

Without prenatal care, pregnant women may experience poor nutrition, excessive weight gain and gestational diabetes. Mineer says that women who are unaware of gestational diabetes and keep eating lots of sugar have excessively big babies and a much higher risk of a stillbirth. These are all good reasons to get prenatal care.

Mineer also talked about the physical symptoms of pregnancy, caring for yourself while you’re pregnant and what you can expect at your first prenatal exam.

“The first symptoms of pregnancy are nausea, fatigue and a feeling of tenderness in the breasts—they’re the main symptoms,” he says.

If you suspect you’re pregnant and want to make sure, home urine tests are accurate and can detect pregnancy within five or six weeks past your menstrual period. However, you can get a serum or blood pregnancy test that will pick it up as early as a couple of weeks. Mineer says that most women seem to know when they’re pregnant, so it’s reasonably safe to trust your judgment if your test was negative and you feel it should have been positive. In this case, it might be a good idea to be tested by a doctor.

After learning that you are pregnant, Mineer says you should eat only a healthy balance of foods and avoid junk foods. He also says to quit using cigarettes and alcohol, but that moderate exercise is OK.

During your first prenatal visit, Mineer says, you can expect a complete physical exam. The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs and perform a breast exam to make sure there are no lumps or tumors. An internal pelvic exam might be performed as well. Subsequent visits are shorter, and breast and pelvic exams are not done each time.