Antenatal care

During your pregnancy, you will be offered various appointments to monitor your health and that of your baby, along with classes to help you prepare for labour, delivery and the early days of caring for your baby.
Image

It’s important for you to attend these appointments and the antenatal care you receive will mean that you are:

  • more likely to stay healthy during your pregnancy
  • more confident and less likely to be stressed
  • more likely to be able to work throughout your pregnancy
  • able to continue working for as long as possible.

Depending on where you live, you may have a choice about the type of antenatal care that is available to you. When you decide which option suits you best, consider how it will fit in with your work and home life. If you have any medical conditions, your choice may be more limited.

Will I get paid time off for antenatal appointments?

You are entitled to take paid time off work to attend your appointments, once you have informed your employer that you’re pregnant. This is true whether you work full-time or part-time. You are also entitled to paid time off for relaxation and parentcraft classes, if your doctor or midwife has recommended these. This paid time includes travel to the appointments.

If you’re working somewhere but you’re not an employee, you should also be given time off to attend antenatal appointments, although this may be unpaid.

Let your employer know about your appointments in advance so they can plan to cover your absence if necessary. Keep your appointment card with you, in case your employer asks to see it.

When are my antenatal appointments likely to be?

If this is your first baby and your pregnancy is straightforward, you’ll have around ten appointments.

The first one is called the booking appointment and this is usually when you’re between eight and 12 weeks pregnant. The booking appointment normally takes considerably longer than later appointments – around an hour or more – so let your employer know this.

After the booking appointment, you are likely to have routine appointments at around 16, 25, 28, 31, 34, 36, 38 and 40 weeks. There will be an extra appointment at 41 weeks if you haven’t had your baby by then.

If you have had a baby before, and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you will probably have just seven appointments. After your booking appointment, you will probably be checked at around 16, 28, 34, 36, 38 and 41 weeks (if necessary).

If you have health issues, have had problems in a previous pregnancy or there are concerns about you or your baby for any reason, you may be offered extra appointments.

For more information about pregnacy problems click here

Will I have any other medical appointments?

Ultrasound scans

In addition to your antenatal appointments, you will normally be offered two ultrasound scans during your pregnancy.

The first of these takes place between 11 and 14 weeks and is to confirm your baby’s due date, check whether you’re expecting more than one baby and possibly assess the risk of any problems.

The second scan is done between 18 and 22 weeks and shows how your baby is growing, the health and position of the placenta and whether there are any visible problems with the baby or babies.

You will only be offered extra scans if there is a medical need.

Diagnostic tests

You’ll also be offered the option of screening to assess the risk of your baby being affected by certain health conditions or disabilities. This can be done during your regular antenatal and scan appointments.

If the screening test indicates a problem, you will be offered a diagnostic test if you would like to know more. There are two diagnostic tests, both of which carry a very small risk of miscarriage:

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)

Done between weeks 11 and 14, this test takes a sample from the placenta via a needle inserted through your abdomen. Occasionally, a fine pair of forceps is passed through the cervix instead.

Amniocentesis

This is done after 15 weeks and involves taking a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby via a thin needle inserted through the abdomen.

Professionals you may meet during your pregnancy

The health professionals you will meet while you’re pregnant will probably include your GP and midwife.

If you have any particular medical conditions or there are complications with your pregnancy, you may be under the care of an obstetrician, who is a doctor specialising in pregnancy and birth.

At work, in addition to your line manager, you may have an occupational health advisor, who can talk to you about your rights, as well as the health and safety aspects of your work. You may also have a human resources manager, who can advise you on more personal work-related issues.

Antenatal classes

Antenatal classes, also known as parentcraft classes, are a way for you and your partner to learn about labour and birth, and how to look after your new baby.

Classes are not just for first pregnancies – if you are expecting your second or subsequent baby, you can benefit from them as well.

There are some classes available on the NHS and others that are run privately, such as those organised by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).

If classes will take place during working hours, your employer may ask you to show them a letter from your doctor or midwife confirming that they have recommended them as part of your antenatal care.

NHS antenatal classes generally start around eight to ten weeks before the baby is due and tend to be held weekly over several weeks. Classes can be in the day or evening (although you may not have a choice, as provision varies depending on area) and usually last around two hours.