Antenatal care

Antenatal care is the care you have while you’re pregnant. Here, we explain how to get this and why it’s important for you and baby.

How can I find a midwife for my antenatal appointments?  

Maternity care in the UK is free of charge through the NHS for most. If you are not sure whether you have a right to free NHS care visit this page for more information. You have a right not to be treated in an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive way even if you are unsure whether you can get free care.  

There are a few ways to get yourself your antenatal appointments set up.

  • You may be able to refer yourself if you know which hospital or trust you want to have your antenatal care and your baby in. The hospital website should have more details. Not all hospitals allow self-referral.
  • Make an appointment with your GP and they can then refer you to a hospital or a midwife-led team for antenatal care and delivery.  
  • You can find maternity services near you by putting your postcode into this NHS search box.  

You can choose a hospital in another area if you do not want to go to your local hospital. You can also choose to give birth in a different setting from where you have your antenatal care.

If you would like a private midwife (that you pay for yourself), visit Independent Midwives UK and put your postcode in the search box to find details of midwives in your area.

Will I have the same midwife for every appointment?

Usually, you will see various midwifes and other members of the clinical team throughout your pregnancy. But most areas are now in the process of implementing the continuity of carer model.  

The term “continuity of carer” means having the same midwife or clinical team throughout the three phases of your maternity journey: pregnancy, labour, and the post-natal period.

Each area will be at different stages as to how they can offer this, so it may vary depending on where you live.

Speak to the midwife about the availability of continuity of care in your local area.

Find out more about continuity of care

What is antenatal care?  

Antenatal care is the health care and support you get from the maternity team while you are pregnant. This care will help keep you and your baby well during pregnancy and ready for the birth.1 It is sometimes called pregnancy care or maternity care. 

At your appointments, your midwife will:

  • check your and your baby’s health  
  • look for any problems so you can get support early  
  • offer you support with your mental health  
  • give you information to help you make decisions about your care  
  • answer any questions you have  
  • help you plan your baby's birth  
  • put you in touch with any other support you may need.  

It is important to start your antenatal care as early as possible. The first antenatal appointment is known as the booking appointment. This usually happens before 10 weeks of pregnancy. 

Find out more about your antenatal appointment schedule.  

Why are antenatal appointments important?  

Regular antenatal appointments are important to:  

  • keep an eye on how your baby is growing  
  • check how you are feeling and offer you any support you might need  
  • pick up conditions such as pre-eclampsia and urinary tract infections that may be (you may not have any early symptoms of some medical issues but routine blood-pressure checks and urine tests can pick them up)
  • check the health of your baby through blood tests and ultrasound scans.  

They are also a chance for you to ask any questions or talk about anything that may be worrying you.  Remember that there are no silly questions in antenatal care, so do not be shy or embarrassed to ask. Your midwife has heard it all before.

Tell your midwife if you have any concerns about your antenatal appointments. They should be able to put your mind at rest of offer you extra support.  

If you cannot go to an antenatal appointment, let your midwife or the hospital know as soon as possible so you can book another one.  

It is important to have a good relationship with your midwife. If you feel that your midwife isn’t listening to you, you can ask to see another member of the team.

Where will I have my antenatal care?  

Depending on your health 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  
  • GP surgery  
  • local hospital  
  • home.  

Your appointments should be held somewhere where you feel safe to talk about your pregnancy and the support you have at home. You will usually have scans at the hospital.  

If you are having a complicated pregnancy, for example if you are carrying more than 1 baby or you develop gestational diabetes, some of your appointments will be at the hospital. You may have extra appointments with a team of health professionals who specialise in complicated pregnancies.  

Will I have internal examinations?  

It is unlikely you will have an internal examination (inside your vagina) until you go into labour unless there is a reason for it.

You should be offered a membrane sweep at your 40 and 41-week antenatal appointments during your first pregnancy or your 41-week appointment if you have had a baby before. To carry out a membrane sweep, your midwife or doctor sweeps their finger around your cervix during an internal examination. This may help labour to begin naturally.

Once you go into labour, you will be offered an internal examination to find out how far your labour is. 

Birthrights. (May 2021) Your right to choose your midwife and doctor.  

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. Antenatal appointments. (Page accessed May 2023)  

NHS. Your first midwife appointment. (Page last reviewed: 22 August 2022. Next review due: 22 August 2025)  

NHS. Your antenatal care. (Page last reviewed: 12 November 2020. Next review due: 12 November 2023)  

NICE clinical knowledge summary. (2023). Antenatal care - uncomplicated pregnancy: Scenario: Antenatal care - uncomplicated pregnancy.    

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2022). Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. Clinical guideline [CG190].  

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2021). Antenatal care. NICE guideline [NG201].      

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2020). Diabetes in pregnancy: management from preconception to the postnatal period. NICE guideline [NG3].  

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2019). Twin and triplet pregnancy. NICE guideline [NG137]. (2021) Antenatal Care. 

Review dates
Reviewed: 29 June 2023
Next review: 29 June 2026