Early and regular prenatal visits set you on the path to a safe and healthy pregnancyPrenatal care can begin the minute a woman decides she wants to become pregnant, but at a minimum, it should start as soon as a pregnancy is suspected. Seeing a medical provider early and often throughout pregnancy will give your baby a better chance of being born healthy. 

Your health care provider will monitor your health, and your baby’s development, and is trained to look for signs and symptoms when extra care may be needed to prevent complications. Prenatal care helps prepare you for all phases of your pregnancy and what to expect during labor and delivery.

Though prenatal visits are usually one-on-one, some providers offer the option of Centering Pregnancy, which involves being cared for in a group setting with opportunities to learn and share with other pregnant women.

The Bright Start program is a great resource for those who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Through this program, you may qualify for a free personal nurse who will be with you every step of the way during your pregnancy.

If you do not have a medical provider and need help accessing medical care, contact the SD Department of Health at 1-800-305-3064 or your local Department of Health office.

For more information on prenatal care:

Scheduling Prenatal Checkups

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, a preconception care visit can set you on the path to a safe and healthy pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can also help you decide what steps to take to become physically and emotionally ready to have a baby.

If you suspect you are pregnant, or know you are pregnant (even if this isn’t your first pregnancy), early and regular prenatal visits will improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy because every pregnancy is different. To stay up-to-date on all your prenatal checkups, see if you qualify for a free personal nurse through the Bright Start program.

  1. Reduces your risk of pregnancy complications.
  2. When you get regular prenatal care, doctors can spot and treat health issues early, which can cure many problems and prevent others.
  3. Gives you the ability to control existing conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, which can lead to serious complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia
  4. Reduces your baby’s risk of complications because doctors can identify potential problems earlier.
  5. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are 3x more likely to have a low birth weight and are 5x more likely to die.
  6. Can help you eliminate known risk factors. Things like tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy have been shown to increase the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Alcohol use also increases the risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can cause a variety of problems including abnormal facial features, having a small head, poor coordination, poor memory, intellectual disability, and problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones. Exposing your baby to secondhand smoke increases the risk for frequent and severe asthma attacks, ear infections, respiratory infections, and SIDS.
  7. Can help you maintain a healthy diet and weight during your pregnancy.
  8. Gives you the opportunity to review all of the medications you are or might need to take during your pregnancy. There are medications (including some acne treatments and dietary or herbal supplements) that are not safe to take during pregnancy.
  9. Healthcare providers are a great resource for information on how to stay healthy before, during, and after each pregnancy so you can give your baby the healthiest start to life.
  10. Healthcare providers can also put you in touch with resources and support networks within your community.

Prenatal visits often include a physical exam, weight checks, and blood pressure and heart rate monitoring. Depending on the stage of the pregnancy, you may also receive blood tests or ultrasound exams. These visits will also include important discussions about your health, the infant’s health, and any questions you may have about the pregnancy.

Your healthcare provider is part of a team of people dedicated to helping you… think of regular checkups as part of the support system designed to give you and your baby the best possible start to a healthy life!

Prenatal Information & Resources

Text4baby is a free information service that delivers three cell phone text messages per week through pregnancy and baby’s first year. The messages include information about pregnancy, your developing baby, hotlines, and health alerts. Signing up is easy and takes just a few minutes.

Simply text the word “BABY” to the number 511411 or text “BEBE” to 511411 for messages in Spanish.

  1. When prompted, enter your expected due date or baby’s date of birth.
  2. Put in your zip code (e.g., 90210).
  3. Done! You will begin getting three messages a week until your baby turns one, timed to how far along you are in your pregnancy or your baby’s age. Sometimes there are health alerts, so on certain weeks you may get an extra message.
  4. If at any time you want to cancel service, just text STOP to 511411 (or reply to one of your text4baby messages with the word STOP).

Learn the warning signs of preterm laborWhen a pregnant woman goes into labor early, her baby may be born too small and too soon. Preterm labor can happen from the fifth month on, but can usually be stopped – if it is caught early. If you have any of the following warning signs, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Menstrual-like cramps
    Located just above the pubic bone, constant or comes and goes
  • Low, dull backache
    Constant or comes and goes
  • Pressure
    Feels like the baby is pushing down, or feels heavy
  • Abdominal cramping
    Located around the belly button area, may be accompanied by diarrhea
  • Increase or change in vaginal discharge
    Mucousy, watery, light-colored or bloody
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina
    May be a slow trickle or sudden gush
  • A general feeling that something isn’t right
    If you think something may be wrong, go with your instinct and contact your healthcare provider
  • Uterine contractions that are 10 minutes apart or less
    Contractions may be painless and are sometimes described as feeling like the “baby is balling up”

Find out more about the warning signs of preterm labor.

If you are concerned about the cost of medical care, check to see if you qualify for Medicaid pregnancy coverage, which assists with medical expenses throughout your pregnancy. For more information call 1-605-773-4678 or contact your local Department of Social Services Medicaid office.

The South Dakota Department of Health offers programs that serve pregnant women. These programs DO NOT replace the prenatal care you receive from a health care provider.


Includes linking you to medical care and community resources you are interested in such as incentive programs, prenatal classes, breastfeeding classes, adoption services, and other programs designed to support pregnant women.

Bright Start

Being pregnant with your first baby can feel exciting, but also a little overwhelming. There’s so much to prepare for and know. And you want to be the best mom you can be. What if you had your own personal nurse to support you during your pregnancy and after your baby arrives? The Bright Start program is here to help you be the best mom you can be by making the best choices for you and your family from the very beginning—a Bright Start can make a big difference!

Learn More About Bright Start

Pregnancy Care Program (Perinatal Services)

Monthly visits with a nurse to provide education and support throughout pregnancy and after childbirth.

Learn More About our Pregnancy Care Program

WIC: Women, Infants, and Children’s Program

Provides nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support, referrals to other health care services, healthy foods based on individual needs, and links women, infants, and children to immunization services.

Learn More About WIC

South Dakota PLAN

Provides services to help women and men determine if and when they want to have a child. The program helps keep people healthy and protects their ability to have children in the future.

Learn More About SD PLAN


All pregnant women are eligible to receive influenza vaccine and will receive information about other vaccines that are recommended.

Learn more about Immunizations

Find your local South Dakota Department of Health office.

Or call 1-800-305-3064