Frequently Asked Questions

Pregnancy and Beyond

Where can I get a pregnancy test?
When should I go to the doctor or clinic?
What if I don't have insurance for prenatal care?
What if I don't have insurance for my baby?
What kinds of foods should I eat while I am pregnant?
How should my baby ride in the car?
Why should I quit smoking while I am pregnant?
Why is breastfeeding best for my baby?
What if my insurance does not cover my baby's shots?
How should my baby sleep in the crib?
Why does my baby need regular checkups?
How can I protect my baby from lead poisoning?

Where can I get a pregnancy test?
Many local health departments provide low-cost pregnancy testing. Call 1-800-TEL-LINK (1-800-835-5465) for the location of your local public health agency.

When should I go to the doctor or clinic?
Make an appointment with your health care provider as soon as you think you might be pregnant. Your first visit ideally will be within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Normally, you should have 10-14 visits with your health care provider during your pregnancy. For more information about what to expect in prenatal care, visit the pregnancy portion of the womenshealth.gov website.

What if I don't have insurance for prenatal care?
Call your local Family Support Division office or TEL-LINK at 1-800-835-5465.

What if I don't have insurance for my baby?
You may be eligible for health care services. When your baby is born, you can apply for MO HealthNet assistance to cover your baby’s medical needs based on your income. Call 1-800-TEL-LINK (1-800-835-5465) for the location of your local Family Support Division office or visit the MO HealthNet website for more information.

What kinds of foods should I eat while I am pregnant?
•  Proper nutrition and healthy weight gain help ensure good health for you and your baby throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. For more information, visit the pregnancy portion of the womenshealth.gov website.
•  Your daily diet should include 6-11 servings of breads, cereals, rice and pasta; 2-4 servings of fruit; 3-5 servings of vegetables; 3-4 servings of milk, yogurt and cheese (teens need 4 servings); 2-3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and dry beans.
•  It's important to have enough folic acid (vitamin B) in your system before, during and between pregnancies. Folic acid may reduce the risk of having a baby with birth defects of the brain and spine. A vitamin supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended. Foods high in folic acid include: orange juice, green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, liver and other organ meats, fortified cereals, asparagus and others. For more information on folic acid, visit the March of Dimes website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention folic acid web pages.

How should my baby ride in the car?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants ride in the back seat in a rear facing child safety seat until they are at least one year old AND weigh at least 20 pounds. Infants weighing 20 pounds or more before one year of age should ride in a safety seat rated for heavier infants (some convertible seats are rated up to 30-35 pounds rear-facing). Please remember to NEVER place a rear facing child safety seat in the front seat when a passenger air bag is present. For further information, call 1-800-800-BELT or you may wish to review the AAP Car Seat Guide on their web site. Remember, never leave a child alone in a car, not even for a minute.

Why should I quit smoking while I am pregnant?
If you quit smoking, your baby will grow better. Nicotine from cigarettes makes your blood vessels tighten up, so your baby gets less food and oxygen. Your baby will have a better chance of being born alive and healthy. If you quit smoking your baby's lungs will work better. After your baby is born, don't smoke around the baby or let anyone else smoke around the baby. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke have more trouble breathing and get more infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and colds. For free coaching on how to quit smoking, call the Missouri Tobacco Quitline at 800-QUIT-NOW. Quitline coaches have helped many smokers with tips on quitting, self-help materials and quit smoking support.

For additional information on smoking please go to the DHSS website.

Why is breastfeeding best for my baby?
Breastmilk is produced by your body especially for your baby. This makes your breastmilk the "perfect" food for your baby. It is easy for your baby to digest. It protects your baby from infections and food allergies. Breastmilk changes to meet the exact nutritional needs of your baby. Almost any woman can breastfeed, no matter what her age, how large or small her breasts, or how confident or relaxed she feels in the beginning. For breastfeeding questions and support, visit the Department of Health and Senior Services Breastfeeding website.

What if my insurance does not cover my baby's shots?
Babies are born with a natural immunity or resistance to disease. It's nature's way of starting them off on the right track. Unfortunately, that natural immunity doesn't last forever. You need to have your baby immunized to protect against such diseases as measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b. Parents are advised to talk with their child's health care provider about which vaccines are recommended and at what ages. Changes in recommended immunizations occur each year, so it is important to talk with your child's health care provider. Keep your child's immunization record current and in a safe place, as it may be required later for childcare, military service, college or travel. For more information, call your city or county health department, or the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Immunization program at 573-751-6124.

How should my baby sleep in the crib?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sleeping on the back as the safest position for babies to sleep. The crib should meet current safety standards and babies should sleep on a firm, flat mattress at naptime and nighttime. Slats of the crib should not be wider than a soft drink can. Remove soft, fluffy items such as quilts, comforters, pillows and stuffed animals from the crib, and do not let baby get too hot. Supervised "tummy time" is important while babies are awake. Tell others who help take care of your baby (family, friends, babysitters, child care providers) to place your baby on his or her back while sleeping. For more information on sleep safety, call 1-800-421-3511 or visit the SIDS Resources, Inc. website.

Why does my baby need regular health checkups (doctor's visits)?
Infants, children and youth should get regular health checks-ups to make sure they are healthy. These routine check-ups are often called well-baby or well child exams. They are important in addition to "sick-child" visits, because they can find health problems early. Well-child visits also assure you that your child is growing and developing normally. Most health insurance covers well-child exams on a regular schedule. Click well-child exams for more information. Children without health insurance may be eligible for MO HealthNet for Kids (MHK).

How can I protect my baby from lead poisoning?
One of the first things you can do to help protect your baby from lead poisoning is to know what causes it. Lead dust is the primary source of lead poisoning today. Lead dust can be caused by deteriorating lead-based paint. This is paint that is chipping, peeling or flaking. Lead-based paint is often found in homes built before 1978. Lead dust can also come from other sources. Remodeling or renovation can also cause lead dust. Children from age six months to six years (seventy-two months) are at the highest risk for lead poisoning due to their immature developing body systems and their "hand to mouth" habits. It is recommended that all children have their blood tested for lead at least twice in the first 24 months, usually at 12 and 24 months of age. You may find that in some circumstances, your child is required to have his or her blood tested for lead. Lead poisoning can have long-term effects on your baby's hearing, growth, learning and behavior. The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is to have a blood test done. Pregnant women, who are at risk by their history or where they live, should consider being tested. Talk with your health care provider about lead testing. New legislation requires blood lead testing, especially for those children in high-risk areas of the state. For more information visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention website or call 1-573-751-6102.