The booking appointment
Your booking appointment is the first official antenatal appointment. You’ll be asked for lots of information about your health and you’ll get lots of information about pregnancy
You’ll get your pregnancy or maternity ‘notes’, which you'll need to bring with you to all your appointments.
The booking visit will usually happen when you are between eight and 12 weeks pregnant, and will ideally happen by the time you are ten weeks. If you start your antenatal care later than this, the booking appointment will happen as soon as possible
This first visit may take up to an hour, although in some areas it might be split into two different appointments to make them shorter.
Why all the questions just because I'm pregnant?
The antenatal team need to know about any particular risks you and your baby may have. This will help them make sure you have the best possible care during your pregnancy.
You'll be asked about your health and medical history, your family's health, any medical conditions you have and your lifestyle. You will also be asked about any other pregnancies you've had.
Some questions may not seem relevant but there's always a good reason for them. For example, they may ask about your ethnic origin and that of the baby's father because some ethnic groups are more at risk than others of having certain medical conditions. If you don't understand why your midwife or doctor is asking you a particular question, just ask.
If you're not in contact with your baby's father or don't know much about his medical history, don't worry, any details you can give will be useful.
Talking about how you feel in pregnancy
When you first see someone about your pregnancy - probably during your booking appointment - they will ask about your mental health. This is something your midwife asks everybody, so don't worry, they're not singling you out.
You will be asked whether you have, or have ever had, a mental illness. If you’ve had a baby before, they’ll also ask whether you had mental health problems during your pregnancy or after giving birth. You will also be asked about any specialist treatment you may have had for mental health problems.
Your midwife will also ask you some questions about how you're feeling now. Again, these are questions everyone is asked to help the midwife pick up signs of depression.
It is important for your midwife to know if you’re feeling depressed or anxious in your pregnancy – for your wellbeing and for your baby’s. Women who manage depression or anxiety during their pregnancy have less 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 must not stop taking any medication when pregnant without speaking to a healthcare professional first.
What if I want to keep some things private
Anything you say to your midwife or doctor is in confidence. That means they can't tell anyone else without your permission. Do let them know, though, if there is something you especially want to be kept private.
If you suffer from an eating disorder, have mental health problems or are worried about money, housing, domestic abuse or anything else at all, tell your midwife or doctor. They may be able to help you and, if not, they can advise you where to go for help.
Other things that may happen at the booking visit
The midwife will also advise you on what vitamins you should be taking in pregnancy. You should be able to get most of your vitamins from your food. However, when you are pregnant it is important to take additional supplements. It is recommended that you take:
- 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day throughout your pregnancy and if you’re breastfeeding
- 400 micrograms of folic acid each day – you should take this from before you are pregnant until 12 weeks of your pregnancy
You may qualify for a free voucher for these supplements.
Antenatal screening blood test
Your midwife or GP will offer you a blood test at this appointment. Your blood will be tested to see if you have any conditions that might affect your baby. All women are offered this test. If you are worried about having your blood taken, tell your midwife and discuss it with them. They will also tell you about the ultrasound scans and screening and diagnostic tests that you will have.
Measuring height and weight
Your height may be measured and your weight checked at your booking appointment. This is to check your body mass index (BMI) and is usually the only time you will be weighed unless you are overweight or underweight.
Free prescriptions and dental care information
Pregnant women get free prescriptions and NHS dental care both during their pregnancy and for up to a year afterwards. Ask for form FW8 if you don’t already have one. You need to fill this in to get your free prescription certificate (called a ‘maternity exemption certificate’ or MatEx). Your midwife or doctor will need to sign it. You can show your free prescription certificate (or your MAT B1 form – which your midwife will give you at around 26 weeks) to your NHS dentist.
Information that you should get
The midwife should also talk to you about:
- how your baby develops in the pregnancy
- where you would like to have your baby (in hospital,at home or at a birth centre)
- the appointments you will have in your pregnancy
- how you would like to feed your baby when they are born
- what antenatal classes are available and when to start them.
Your turn to ask questions
The booking appointment - and any antenatal appointment - is a time when you can ask questions too.
If you have a concern or query about your health or anything that is happening in your life, you can talk to your midwife about it. You can also ask if you're worried about anything that may have happened before you realised you were pregnant.
You will probably have lots of questions so ask as many as you need to. If you don't understand or remember the answer, you can ask again.
Will I have to have an internal examination?
It’s unlikely that you will have an internal examination (inside your vagina) at this stage. You will be offered one when you go into labour to find out how your labour is progressing. Your midwife or doctor must always ask your permission before doing an internal examination.
Your Healthy Pregnancy Tool
This tool is designed to help you find personalised tips and ideas to improve your health and wellbeing during pregnancy.
1. NICE (2017). Antenatal care: NICE clinical guideline 62. National Institute for health and care excellence http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62/resources/guidance-antenatal-care-pdf
2. National Institute for Health Research (2017) Better beginnings Improving health for pregnancy https://content.nihr.ac.uk/nihrdc/themedreview-001598-BB/Better-beginnings-web-interactive.pdf
3. NHS Choices. Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant/#close (Page last reviewed: 26/01/2017. Next review due: 26/01/2020)
4. NHS Choices. Are pregnant women entitled to free NHS prescriptions NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/941.aspx?CategoryID=68&SubCategoryID=161 (Page last reviewed:19/07/2016 Next review due: 19/07/2019).
5. NHS Choices. Are pregnant women entitled to free NHS dental treatment?: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/are-pregnant-women-entitled-to-free-NHS-dental-treatment.aspx (Page last reviewed: 14/07/2016 Next review due: 14/07/2019).
6. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, 14th edition, London, Ballière Tindall, p. 494, 496.
7. General Medical Council (2013) ‘Intimate examinations and chaperones’, London, GMC: http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/ethical_guidance/21168.asp