Your booking appointment is the first official antenatal appointment. You will usually have it before 10 weeks of pregnancy. If you start your antenatal care later than this, you will have your booking appointment as soon as possible.
This first visit may last about an hour.
What happens at the appointment
Your midwife will ask you about your medical history. They will also ask about the biological father’s medical history. This is to find out whether your baby has a higher chance of having a health condition and to make sure you have the right care during your pregnancy.
The midwife may ask you about:
- your physical and mental health
- your diet and lifestyle
- any other pregnancies you have had
- any medicines or supplements you are taking
- whether you have any allergies
- whether you work and what type of work you do
- what support you have at home.
You may wonder why they are asking these questions but there is always a good reason for them. For example, they may ask about your ethnic origin and that of the baby's biological father. This is because people from some ethnic groups are more likely to be affected by some medical conditions. If you do not understand why your midwife or doctor is asking you a particular question, you can ask them.
If you are not in contact with your baby's biological father or do not know much about their medical history, do not worry. Any details you can give will be useful.
Talking about how you feel in pregnancy
Your doctor or midwife will ask about your mental health. This is something they ask everybody.
They will ask you whether you have, or have ever had, a mental illness. If you have had a baby before, they will also ask whether you had mental health problems during your pregnancy or after giving birth. If so, they will ask if you had any specialist treatment.
Your midwife will also ask you some questions about how you are feeling now. It is important for your midwife to know if you are feeling depressed or anxious in your pregnancy – for your wellbeing and for your baby’s. Getting support or treatment for depression or anxiety during pregnancy lowers the chance of getting postnatal depression after the baby is born.
Anxiety and depression can be common in pregnancy and you will not be judged by your midwife or GP if you are feeling low. Their role is to give support and offer the right care.
You should not stop taking any medication when pregnant without speaking to a health professional first. They will help you make sure you are on the most suitable medication for pregnancy.
What if I want to keep some things private?
Anything you say to your midwife or doctor is in confidence. That means they cannot tell anyone else without your permission. But let them know if there is something you especially want to be kept private.
They may ask you about some things that can be difficult to talk about, such as domestic abuse, eating disorders or mental health problems. At the booking appointment, they may ask about female genital mutilation. It is important to tell your midwife if you have experienced this so that they can give you the right care during your pregnancy.
You can speak to your midwife or doctor at any of your appointments about anything that is worrying you, including money or housing. They may be able to help you and, if not, they can tell you where you can get help.
Tests and checks
Your midwife or GP will offer you some, or all, of these tests to check your health and test for any conditions that may affect your baby:
- blood tests
- your height and weight measurement, to check your body mass index (BMI)
- blood pressure and urine test, to check for protein in your urine.
Talk to your midwife if you are worried about having your blood taken so that they can help and reassure you. The midwife will also tell you about the ultrasound scans and screening and diagnostic tests that you will be offered during pregnancy.
Tell your midwife or doctor if there are any tests or procedures you do not want during pregnancy and birth. Health professionals must ask for your consent before every examination, test or treatment. Birthrights has more information about giving consent.
Information your midwife will give you
Your midwife should talk to you about:
- how your baby develops in the pregnancy
- having a healthy pregnancy, including information about lifestyle, vaccinations and reducing the risk of infections
- when and how to report any unusual symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding or stomach pain
- where you would like to have your baby ‒ in hospital, at home or at a birth centre
- the appointments you will have during pregnancy
- how you would like to feed your baby when they are born
- what antenatal classes are available and when to start them
- how to contact the midwifery team.
The midwife will give you information about vitamins you can take in pregnancy. You should be able to get most of your vitamins from your food but it is recommended that you take:
- 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day throughout your pregnancy and if you are breastfeeding
- 400 micrograms of folic acid each day – you should take this from before you are pregnant until at least 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some people need more than this – check here if that is you.
You may qualify for a free voucher for these supplements. Find out more about Healthy Start.
Free prescriptions and dental care
You will get free prescriptions (medicine) and NHS dental care during pregnancy and for a year afterwards.
You’ll need a form to be filled in for this.
In England, your midwife, GP, practice nurse or health visitor will need to apply for your maternity exemption certificate (MatEx). They can either apply online or ask you to fill in form FW8.
Prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To get free dental care, you can show your dentist your maternity exemption certificate or your MAT B1 form.18 You will get your MAT B1 from your midwife after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Your maternity notes
You will get your pregnancy or maternity notes, either in digital form (app or website) or as a paper book or folder.
Your notes are a record of all your pregnancy appointments and test results. A lot of the information in your notes is not kept anywhere else so it’s important to keep them with you all the time in case you need any medical care. Remember to take them to your pregnancy appointments too.
Questions to ask
The booking appointment, like any antenatal appointment, is a good time to ask any questions you may have.
You can talk to your midwife or doctor about your health or anything that is happening in your life. You can also ask if you are worried about anything that may have happened before you realised you were pregnant.
You can ask as many questions as you need to. If you do not understand or remember the answer, you can ask again.
Remember that there are no silly questions when it comes to pregnancy, so do not be shy – your midwife has heard it all before!
Our midwife helpline is also available to help answer any questions you might have or even just to chat if you need to talk it through. It is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm – call us on 0800 014 7800. Or you can email [email protected].