What is antenatal care?
This is the care you receive while you’re pregnant to make sure you and your baby are as well as possible.
The midwife or doctor providing your antenatal care will:
- check the health of you and your baby
- give you useful information to help you have a healthy pregnancy, including advice about healthy eating and exercise
- discuss your options and choices for your care during pregnancy, labour and birth
- answer any questions you may have
If you’re pregnant in England you will be offered:
- 2 pregnancy ultrasound scans at 8 to 14 weeks and 18 to 21 weeks
- antenatal screening tests to find out the chance of your baby having certain conditions, such as Down’s syndrome
- blood tests to check for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B
- screening for sickle cell and thalassaemia
You may also be offered antenatal classes, including breastfeeding workshops.
Ask your midwife about classes in your area.
Starting antenatal care
You can book an appointment with your GP or directly with your midwife as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Your GP surgery or a children’s centre can put you in touch with your nearest midwifery service.
You can find your nearest children’s centre through your local council.
It’s best to see a midwife or GP as early as possible to get the information you need about having a healthy pregnancy.
Some tests, such as screening for sickle cell and thalassaemia, should be done before you’re 10 weeks pregnant.
If you have special health needs, your midwife, GP or obstetrician may take shared responsibility for your maternity care.
This means they’ll all be involved in your care during pregnancy.
Let your midwife know if you have a disability that means you have special requirements for your antenatal appointments or for labour.
If you do not speak English, tell your midwife.
How many antenatal appointments will I have?
If you’re expecting your first child, you’ll have up to 10 antenatal appointments.
If you have had a baby before, you’ll have around 7 appointments, but sometimes you may have more – for example, if you develop a medical condition.
Early in your pregnancy, your midwife or doctor will give you written information about how many appointments you’re likely to have and when they’ll happen.
You should have a chance to discuss the schedule of antenatal appointments with them.
If you cannot keep an appointment, let the clinic or midwife know and rearrange it.
Where will I have my antenatal appointments?
Your appointments can take place at:
- your home
- a Children’s Centre
- a GP surgery
- a hospital
You’ll usually go to the hospital for your pregnancy scans.
Antenatal appointments should take place in a setting where you feel able to discuss sensitive issues, such as domestic abuse, sexual abuse, mental health problems or drugs.
To make sure you get the best pregnancy care, your midwife will ask you many questions about your and your family’s health, and your preferences.
Your midwife will carry out some checks and tests, some of which will be done throughout your pregnancy, such as urine tests and blood pressure checks.
The results may affect your choices later in pregnancy, so it’s important not to miss them.
Your midwife will also ask about any other social care support you may have or need, such as support from social workers or family liaison officers.