This article gives an overview of what generally happens at antenatal appointments. Note that this can vary a lot between teams. See below for the link to the NICE guidelines. For example:
Although you will be supported by health practitioners during pregnancy try to remember that this is your pregnancy and each appointment should provide an opportunity to discuss ongoing options, concerns and feelings.
Most hospital trusts now offer a self referral service through their website. If this doesn’t happen in your trust/region, you will make an appointment with your GP or midwife as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
At the first appointment, you will be given information on nutrition and exercise during pregnancy, the importance of taking folic acid and vitamin D, as well as not smoking or drinking alcohol. You will be able to discuss the vaccinations, screening and diagnostic tests available to you.
You need to tell your doctor or midwife if you have any particular medical issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of abnormalities or inherited diseases, previous premature births or other birthing difficulties, or a history of pre-eclampsia.
If you need help with English at your appointments, your doctor or midwife will help you get the information and support you need. Similarly, if you have a physical, hearing or sight impairment, let the team know as they can provide additional support if necessary.
The booking appointment usually happens before you are 9 weeks pregnant and it can take up to 2 hours. You will be given information on baby development, nutrition, exercise, breastfeeding classes, maternity and paternity benefits, and planning your birth. Ask as many questions as you like. You can take your partner or a friend with you.
If you are feeling depressed or anxious, it’s important to mention it. There are all sorts of things the midwives and doctors can do to support you and they are very used to providing mental health support and information.
At this appointment, your midwife will enter all your information in your maternity notes. You need to keep these notes with you at home and bring them to every appointment from now on. You also need to take them with you to any additional doctor or hospital appointments.
If the booking appointment takes place at the hospital, you may have your first dating scan at the same time. You will have blood tests to check your blood group, haemoglobin levels to assess for signs of anaemia and the presence of serious diseases such as syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B. In addition, the baby’s father may be asked to have a blood test so that the team can check for inherited conditions such as sickle cell anaemia.
From around 24 weeks into your pregnancy, your appointments may become more frequent. Your midwife or doctor will feel your tummy to check the baby’s position, he or she will listen to your baby’s heartbeat, measure your uterus to see that everything is growing well, take your blood pressure and check your urine. Findings will be recorded in your notes.
You mustn’t miss these appointments. High blood pressure or raised blood sugars can sometimes indicate conditions that are potentially serious for you and your baby. If you are having obstetrician led care you may need more blood tests taken at subsequent antenatal appointments to keep an eye on your iron levels.
You can help by keeping track of a number of times a day your baby moves or kicks. If the movements suddenly stop or reduce, you need to tell your doctor straightaway.
Remember you can ask questions about anything – your birth plan, your breastfeeding plan, what will happen during labour, screening tests, your energy levels and moods, domestic violence – anything that affects you and your baby. You may find you’ve forgotten some of your questions by the time you get to the clinic, so it’s a good idea to write them down so you have a list ready for your appointment.