Informed Decision Making in Your Pregnancy



quick links
  The Rights of Childbearing Women
  Planning for Pregnancy


Why is it important for me to be actively involved in decision-making about my maternity care?

Being pregnant may feel like an awesome responsibility, but the more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to make informed decisions about your pregnancy and birth with confidence. The decisions you make and the care that you receive can have lasting effects on the health and well being of your baby, yourself, and your family. Therefore, it is important that you understand the benefits and risks of any procedures, drugs, tests, or treatments that are recommended to you during pregnancy, labor and birth. Your health care provider is responsible for explaining why the type of care is being recommended, what it involves, and the risks and benefits of the care for both you and your baby. Your health care provider should also tell you about alternatives to the care being recommended and their risks and benefits. You have the right to accept or refuse procedures, drugs, tests, or treatments, and to have your choices honored. The Rights of Childbearing Women, on this website, provides a list of your legal rights.

Making informed decisions about maternity care means getting the best information possible, thinking about your values and preferences, and then deciding what's right for you, your baby, and your family.

Key questions about informed decisions:

  • What are the possible options?
  • What are the benefits and risks for me and my baby of each of these options?
  • What are my values and preferences and those of other family members?
  • What choices are available and supported in my care setting and through my health care provider?

How do I know I'm pregnant?

Many women claim that they can sense emotionally when they are pregnant. Others wait for the time-honored sign of pregnancy – a missed menstrual period. Most women will notice pregnancy symptoms about three weeks after conception (that is, after their egg is fertilized). Your body will let you know you're pregnant through the following signs:
  • Your breasts may tingle, feel fuller or swollen, or be more tender.
  • You may feel drowsy and more tired than usual.
  • You may have the urge to urinate more often than usual.
  • You may feel nauseated or have an upset stomach.
  • You may have increased vaginal discharge.
Early pregnancy can be confirmed through a blood or urine pregnancy test, or by a pelvic exam, which your health care provider will conduct during an office visit. If you are planning for pregnancy, a list of resources is available here.

Prenatal Care

Getting early and regular prenatal care is one of the best things that you can do to help ensure your baby is born healthy. It is wise to see a health care provider as soon as you suspect that you may be pregnant. If you are not already pregnant but plan on trying to get pregnant, see a health care provider for a pre-pregnancy visit.


Continue on to "Types of Health Care Providers"

Most recent page update: 9/9/2010


© 2014 National Partnership for Women & Families. All rights reserved.

Founded in 1918, Childbirth Connection has joined forces with and become a core program of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Together, these two women's health powerhouses are transforming maternity care in the United States.
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