Antenatal care is the care you receive during your pregnancy. You’ll be offered a series of appointments with a midwife or, if needed, a doctor (obstetrician). They will check that you and your baby are well, give you information about being pregnant and answer any questions you have.
Beginning antenatal care
It is best to begin your antenatal care as early as possible, so once you know you are pregnant you should get in touch with a midwife or your GP as soon as you can.
It is important to tell your midwife or doctor if:
- you do not speak or read English as your first language
- there were any complications or infections in a previous pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, premature birth or postnatal depression
- you are being treated for any long term conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or mental health problems
- you, or anyone in your family, has previously had a baby with an abnormality, such as spina bifida
- there is a history in your family of inherited disease, for example, sickle cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis or MCADD
- you are a victim of sexual abuse or domestic violence
- you have any children in care
- you use any drugs, medications, or have been drinking while pregnant
- you smoke
Making the most of antenatal care
Having regular antenatal care is important for your health and the health of your baby.
Most antenatal services are now provided in easily accessible community settings.
Waiting times in clinics can vary,and this can be particularly difficult if you have young children with you. Try to plan ahead to make your visits easier. Here are some suggestions:
- if you already have children, try to arrange for them to be looked after by someone else during your appointments – they are likely to get bored and restless
- write a list of questions you want to ask and take it with you as a reminder – make sure you get answers to your questions or the opportunity to discuss any worries
- if your partner is free, invite them to go with you – this can help them to feel more involved in the pregnancy
Your antenatal team
While you are pregnant, you should see a small number of professionals, led by a midwife or a doctor on a regular basis.
Many mothers like to get to know the people who will care for them during the pregnancy and birth of their baby. The professionals you meet will introduce themselves and explain who they are and what their role is in your care.
It might help to keep a note of who you see, in case you need to discuss anything they tell you later on.
You are most likely to meet the following professionals during your pregnancy.
Midwives are specially trained to care for mothers and babies throughout pregnancy and after the birth.
They provide care for the majority of women at home and in hospital.
An obstetrician is a doctor specialising in the care of women during pregnancy and after the birth.
Your midwife or GP will refer you to an obstetrician if they have any concerns, such as previous complications or chronic illness.
An anaesthetist is a doctor who specialises in pain relief and anaesthesia.
If you decide to have an epidural or require a caesarean, it will be an anaesthetist who provides the necessary pain relief.
A paediatrician is a doctor specialising in the care of babies and children.
If your baby has any problems you will be able to talk this over with a paediatrician.
Specially trained to carry out ultrasound scans, a sonographer will carry out your anomaly scan.
An obstetric physiotherapist is a specialist physiotherapist trained to help you cope with physical changes during pregnancy, childbirth and after.
Health visitors are specialist nurses who will offer help and support with the health of the whole family.
A health visitor will come to see you in the first few weeks after the birth.
A dietitian may be available to advise you on healthy eating, for example, if you develop gestational diabetes or have a high BMI at the start of pregnancy.
Antenatal education can help to prepare you for your baby’s birth as well as for looking after and feeding your baby.
It can help you to keep yourself fit and well during pregnancy and give you confidence as well as information.
You can find out about your options for labour and birth and meet some of the people who will look after you during labour.