Antenatal care

Antenatal care or 'pregnancy care' is the healthcare and support you have while you’re pregnant. It's very important to make sure you and your unborn baby are both looked after throughout your pregnancy.

Woman having antenatal check up.

Antenatal appointments or 'pregnancy appointments' will be set up for you – they’re spaced out through your pregnancy. At these antenatal appointments, the team looking after you will:

  • check your health and the wellbeing of your baby
  • watch out for any problems so you can get support early
  • give you and your baby any special treatment you need
  • give you information about how to look after your health and your baby's
  • answer any questions you have
  • help you plan your baby's birth
  • put you in touch with any other support you may need.

The first antenatal appointment is known as the ‘booking appointment’. This usually happens between 8 and 12 weeks of your pregnancy.

Where will I have my antenatal care?

Depending on your health, your circumstances and where you live, you may be offered antenatal care at:

  • your local health centre, birth unit, children's centre or young person's project
  • your doctor's surgery
  • your local hospital
  • your home, with visits from the midwife or doctor.

If you are expecting twins or triplets, or have other risk factors, you will probably have at least two of your antenatal appointments with an obstetrician at the hospital.

How can I find a midwife?

As soon as you know you're pregnant, make an appointment to see your doctor or a midwife.

Your doctor can put you in touch with your local midwives or you can get contact them directly – ask for their details at your doctor's surgery, health centre or children's centre. You can also find maternity services near you by putting your postcode into this NHS search box

If you would like a private midwife, visit the Independent Midwives UK website and put your postcode in the search box to find details of midwives in your area.

Why are antenatal appointments important?

Regular antenatal appointments are important to:

  • keep an eye on how your baby is growing.
  • pick up some conditions such as pre-eclampsia and urinary tract infections – these might not have any early symptoms that you would notice but routine blood-pressure checks and urine tests can pick up on them, even if you feel fine
  • check the health of your baby through blood tests and ultrasound scans.

If you don’t want to go because you're worried about having blood tests, tell the midwife about your fears.

If you can't go to an antenatal appointment, let your midwife or the hospital know so you can make another one.

Can I take someone with me to my antenatal appointments?

You can go to your appointments on your own or you can take someone with you. If you take someone, they can stay in the waiting room or come into the room with you, whichever you prefer.

If you decide to bring someone with you, the midwife will probably ask to see you on your own at least once. This is in case there's anything you want to tell her that you don't want to say in front of the other person.

How long are antenatal appointments?

The first antenatal appointment is known as the ‘booking appointment’ and takes the longest - it can be up to an hour. You will be asked lots of questions about your health, your family’s health and the baby’s dad’s health - particularly questions about any illnesses in the family that might affect your baby.

The midwife is finding out everything she needs to make sure that she can support you and your baby during your pregnancy.

After the booking appointment, your visits will be much shorter. They’ll take around 10 to 15 minutes if your pregnancy is uncomplicated – enough time to take your blood pressure and a urine test, and feel how your baby is growing in later months.

If you have any questions about your pregnancy, you can ask them at these appointments.

Read more about the ways your midwife watches for pregnancy complications.

More on antenatal care

  • Couple at antenatal appointment.

    Your antenatal appointment schedule

    You will have regular antenatal or 'pregnancy appointments' during your pregnancy to check on progress.

  • What are the key tests I will have in pregnancy?

    During pregnancy you will be offered some key tests and checks to keep an eye on your and your baby’s health.

  • 'FAQ' written in pink chalk on black board.

    Antenatal care FAQs

    In this section we try and answer the most commonly asked questions to our midwives about antenatal care.

  • A group of happy pregnant women attending an antenatal class.

    Antenatal classes

    Antenatal classes (sometimes called parentcraft classes) give you a chance to learn about what happens during labour and birth.

  • Couple talking to nurse.

    Vaccinations in pregnancy

    You will be offered a whooping cough and flu vaccination during pregnancy to keep your baby safe during pregnancy and for a short while after they are born

  • Woman washing her hands.

    Infections to avoid in pregnancy

    Most germs are normally harmless, but when trying for a baby, or newly pregnant, you may be more at risk. Some illnesses may be able to affect your growing baby

  • Woman having water birth.

    Where can I give birth?

    Choosing where to have your baby is a big decision. You and your midwife will probably talk about it at your booking appointment

  • A happy mother with her newborn baby.

    Making your birth plan

    At some stage during pregnancy, it’s good to think about where you'd like to give birth, who will be your birth partner and what you would prefer to happen during labour and delivery.

Sources

1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2008) ‘Antenatal Care. Appendix D: Antenatal appointments (schedule and content)’, NICE Clinical Guideline 62: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62/chapter/appendix-d-antenatal-appoi... [accessed 10 February 2015].

2. NICE (2011) Clinical Guideline 129: , ’Multiple pregnancy: The management of twin and triplet pregnancies in the antenatal period, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence ‘ http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg129 [accessed 10 February 2015] (next review date: June 2016).

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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2014. Next review date April 1st, 2017.

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