Every woman requires professional health care during pregnancy which is also referred to as antenatal care, pregnancy care or maternity care in some cases. The first step to having antenatal care is registering in a hospital which will secure you an appointment with a midwife, or an obstetrician (a doctor who specialises in pregnancy and birth). Antenatal care should not be delayed; once you are pregnant, you should start your antenatal care immediately.
The baby and the soon to be mother must be fine and doing well all through the period of pregnancy which is what antenatal care is set to achieve. The practitioner providing your antenatal care may carry out some the following:
Antenatal care in the UK is free, and all soon to be mothers are offered the following:
Starting antenatal care must be as early as possible to get the information you need to know about having a healthy pregnancy. You will need an appointment with your GP or midwife as soon as you find out you are pregnant. If you need a midwife, your GP surgery or a Children’s Centre in your local council will help you get in touch with your nearest midwifery service. Pregnant women with special health needs should involve their GP or obstetrician in their maternity care, and your midwife must be well informed about your disability.
Your GP might recommend up to 10 antenatal appointments if you are expecting your first child and about 7 appointments for others. You may have more appointment in some cases of a complicated pregnancy or serious medical condition. Your midwife or GP will give you written information on how many appointments you will likely have and when to have them. You must let your midwife know if you will not be able to keep an appointment so that you can be rescheduled for another.
There are different places where you can have your antenatal appointment, some of which are your homes, Children’s Centre, GP surgery or hospital. You will always be required to go to the hospital for your pregnancy scans.
The best place for antenatal appointments is in an environment where you can discuss sensitive issues, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental illness or drugs. Your antenatal appointments are opportunities to tell your midwife or GP about your vulnerability or area you need extra support –this could be domestic violence, sexual abuse or female genital mutilation.
Your midwife will ensure you get the best pregnancy care, asking questions about you and your family’s health, and your preferences. Some checks and tests such as urine tests and blood pressure will also be done periodically throughout your pregnancy.
The midwife or doctor will ask you a lot of questions to be the best they can to you. Some of the questions you might be asked are:
Your antenatal appointments will become more frequent after 24 weeks of pregnancy. You might not need close monitoring if you are healthy compared with someone with a complicated pregnancy. Your doctor and midwife only need to carry out minor examinations at this stage such as:
Also at this stage, you might be given information on the following:
You must keep track of your baby’s movements all through the pregnancy. You should contact your doctor or midwife immediately if your foetal movements become slow or stops. An ultrasound scan can also be offered to monitor how your baby is growing and developing.