What is an antenatal appointment?
An antenatal appointment is an opportunity for you to see medical professionals for the care you need throughout your pregnancy.
Most of your antenatal appointments will be with a midwife, although some people will also have appointments with a consultant obstetrician, a doctor who is a specialist in pregnancy and birth. In the UK, you will usually only see an obstetrician if there is an added risk or complication, which might be due to an existing health condition, your medical history or something which is happening during your pregnancy.
Antenatal appointments are an important part of having a healthy pregnancy. As soon as you know you are pregnant, get in touch with your GP and ask what the next step is.
Some doctors may want to see you for a GP appointment first, while others will book you in with a midwife or give you the details of the midwifery team so you can contact them yourselves.
What happens in an antenatal appointment?
During your antenatal appointment, you will usually be asked questions so your midwife can find out more about you and how you are feeling. Your appointment is a good opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have about your pregnancy and you may be given useful information to help you stay healthy and make informed decisions.
Exactly what happens during your appointment will depend on what stage of pregnancy you are at. Routine antenatal appointments usually involve a number of basic tests so your midwife can check all is well.
This includes taking your blood pressure and using a dip stick to test a sample of your urine. In some appointments, you may also be asked to give a sample of blood for testing and in the later stages of your pregnancy, your midwife will measure your bump and may listen to your baby’s heartbeat.
When will I have antenatal appointments?
Your first antenatal appointment, known as the booking appointment, will usually take place between eight and 10 weeks with your midwife. This is a long appointment, usually taking around an hour and is an opportunity for your midwife to learn all about you and give you important information.
Between 11 and 14 weeks, you will be given an ultrasound scan, known as the dating scan. This will usually be the first time you get to see your baby unless you had a private scan or needed an ultrasound in early pregnancy for medical reasons.
At 16 weeks, you will have another appointment with your midwife and she will talk to you about the results of any screening tests you have had. You will then go for another ultrasound scan, often referred to as the 20-week scan or anomaly scan, between 18 and 21 weeks. This scan will check your baby’s development and look out for any potential problems.
If it is your first pregnancy, you will see your midwife again at 25 weeks for a routine appointment. At this stage, she will start measuring your uterus with a tape measure and plot the readings on a graph to monitor your baby’s growth.
The next routine antenatal appointment for all pregnant women is at 28 weeks. As well as the usual checks – blood pressure and urine, and measuring your bump, you will talk about labour and birth in detail and discuss your options. If you are rhesus negative, you will be offered your first anti-D injection at this stage.
First-time mums will have another appointment at 31 weeks to check how you are and measure your bump and you will be asked about your baby’s movements.
From 34 weeks, you will start to see your midwife more often and you will be given information about how to tell when you have gone into labour. Rhesus negative women will also be given their second anti-D injection at 34 weeks.
Routine antenatal appointments will then take place at 36 weeks, 38 weeks and 40 weeks unless your baby arrives first. At 40 weeks, which is your due date, your midwife will talk about what your options are if your baby does not arrive soon and you may be offered a cervical sweep to help get things started.
You will then have another appointment at 41 weeks if your baby has not arrived. Usually at this point, an induction will be recommended to get labour started but if you decide you don’t want one and you don’t go into labour by 42 weeks, you will need to be monitored closely.
Will I ever be given more antenatal appointments?
All pregnant women will have around seven antenatal appointments with first-time mums being seen an additional three times. However, these are just the routine antenatal appointments and if there are any complications, problems or risk factors, you may be asked to see your midwife more often, have additional ultrasound scans or meet with an obstetrician or another specialist.
Where will my antenatal appointments be?
Your midwife appointments might take place in a number of places but the most common locations are GP surgeries, health centres, hospitals or children’s centres. Most of the time, you will see your midwife in the same place, although your scans will usually be in the hospital.
Sometimes, you may even have antenatal appointments in your own home, depending on what area you are in and your personal circumstances.
At your first appointment, you will be given your maternity record – these might be paper, in which case they will often be called your handheld notes, or they might be digital and on an app. You will be expected to bring your notes to every antenatal appointment.
Can I take time off work to attend my antenatal appointments?
You are legally entitled to paid time off work to attend appointments which are a part of your antenatal care. You will have to inform your employer that you are pregnant but you can do this in confidence without any of your colleagues finding out.
Attending antenatal appointments is an important part of having a healthy pregnancy so don’t be tempted to skip them if you are busy. If you are unable to attend, let your midwife know as soon as possible so you can rearrange.
Is there anything I can do to prepare for an antenatal appointment?
Write down any questions you want to ask your midwife or doctor so you don’t forget when you are in the appointment. Make sure you drink enough water beforehand so you can easily provide a urine sample – you may wish to do this before you go if you have a clean collection container.
What is the first antenatal appointment for?
The booking appointment with your midwife is usually the start of antenatal care for most pregnant women. Taking around an hour, the appointment will usually take place when you are between eight and 10 weeks pregnant.
If you suspect you are more than 10 weeks pregnant and you haven’t seen a midwife or doctor yet about your pregnancy, let your GP know you are expecting as soon as possible. Antenatal care is very important for your own health and safety as well as your baby’s.
Your midwife will ask you some questions about your personal circumstances, any health conditions or medical issues you may have and your family history. It is extremely important that you answer the questions honestly so your midwife can make sure you get the care and support you need throughout your pregnancy.
Anything you tell your midwife will be treated in confidence and with sensitivity. If your partner attends the appointment with you, they may be asked to leave for part of it so your midwife can speak to you alone.
What questions will the midwife ask me?
Your midwife will ask you where you live, who you live with and the baby’s father. You will also be asked whether you have been pregnant before and any physical and mental health issues you have. You will be asked about your job if you have one, what support you have from loved ones and your family history.
There will also be a number of questions which are more sensitive and you may feel less comfortable answering. Your midwife will not judge you so make sure the answers you give are accurate.
You will be asked about smoking, alcohol and drug use. Your midwife may also ask you whether you have been the victim of sexual abuse, domestic abuse or female genital mutilation (FGM).
This first appointment is a good time to highlight anything you are worried about which could impact your pregnancy. You will also be asked when the first date of your last period was so your midwife can estimate when your baby will be due.
What else will happen?
Your midwife will measure your height and weigh you so she can calculate your body mass index (BMI). She will also collect some samples of your blood for testing – these will be used to find out your blood group and check for anaemia and other issues.
Your blood will also be screened for conditions including HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B. If you are considered to belong to an at-risk group, you may also be screened for sickle cell and thalassaemia.
Your midwife will take your blood pressure and test your urine to check it for signs of infection or protein. Your blood pressure will be taken and your urine checked at every antenatal appointment you attend with your midwife as it can help her monitor your health and identify any problems.
You will also be given a lot of useful information about having a healthy pregnancy and your antenatal care. This will include information about healthy eating, pelvic floor exercises and exercising safely during pregnancy.
You will also be given some information about how your baby will develop and what your antenatal care will involve. Your midwife may also tell you about the benefits you are entitled to, including free dental care and prescriptions, the different screening tests you will be offered and antenatal classes in your area. This is also when you will be given your maternity notes.
Is prenatal and antenatal the same?
Prenatal care means the same thing as antenatal care – both words just mean before birth. You may also sometimes hear the phrase perinatal, which refers to your pregnancy and the first year of your baby’s life.
Postnatal or postpartum means after birth and refers to the period just after you have welcomed your newborn and are recovering and adjusting to your new life.