By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you are pregnant, or are considering becoming pregnant, you need to get to a physician for regular care and follow-up as soon as you can. There are numerous reasons.

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The simplest and most common is your doctor can answer dozens of questions you might have. In addition, you can start taking appropriate vitamins that can help the unborn baby, and be routinely monitored for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes which can harm the unborn baby.

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Another key issue is to avoid some of the situations that can lead to prematurity. Babies born prematurely face more developmental issues than those who are born at full term. In fact, the most premature have a 78 times greater risk for cerebral palsy and a 10 times higher risk of mental retardation.

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Early care and close follow up are major steps that can help.