Getting ready to give birth

Pregnancy: week by week guide

8 min read

This guide covers the major pregnancy milestones to help you prepare for having a baby, with information about scans and choosing where to give birth.

Share this

As your pregnancy progresses it is always worth planning ahead to help the birth of your little one run as smoothly as possible. It’s important to know what appointments you should have and when, your maternity rights at work and when to buy those baby essentials.

4 weeks pregnant: first steps

So you’re having a baby – the adventure starts here. In this first month, if you’ve only found out you’re pregnant through a home pregnancy test, make an appointment with your GP for a check-up as soon as you can. At this stage, a doctor can give you nutritional advice and get you started on your journey through antenatal care.

8 weeks pregnant: the booking appointment

Between 8-12 weeks of pregnancy you will have a ‘booking appointment’ with a midwife or doctor. This is your first official antenatal appointment and allows the midwife or doctor to collect important information about you. If you haven’t arranged an appointment yet contact your GP and ask them to do it for you, or read more about booking your antenatal care. You may also be offered an ultrasound scan at this appointment.

Your first check-up is a great time to ask questions about anything you may be unsure of, and it’s a good chance to start thinking about where you want to give birth. Use our Birth Choice tool to compare your options and watch our videos to hear mums share their experiences of giving birth at home, in a labour ward and in a birth centre.

Your booking appointment is also a good time to check what free and cheap baby stuff is available that could help you when you start shopping for your baby and after your baby is born. Free prescriptions and dental care can help you save money to put towards important items like child car seats and pushchairs. Some baby-related brands offer packs to new mums with coupons and free samples.

12 weeks pregnant: scans and maternity rights

At this stage you have your dating scan, where you will be told the date you can expect your little one to arrive (although this is just an estimate). You may be offered this earlier – dating scans can be carried out anytime between 8-14 weeks.

The end of your first trimester is also a good time to start thinking about when you will tell your employer that you’re pregnant. To qualify for maternity leave, you must tell your employer by the end of your 25th week that you’re pregnant, and the week your baby is due. You must also give them a maternity certificate known as a MATB1, which you get from your doctor or midwife.

Visit our guide to maternity rights for more information.

14 weeks pregnant: shopping for your baby

Around this time in your pregnancy (the second trimester), your energy levels tend to peak. This could be a great time to start preparing for those larger baby essentials you will soon need, such as a child car seat and pushchair. You may want to wait another month to hit the shops for baby clothing, as from 18-21 weeks you will normally be able to find out if your baby is a boy or girl.

Finding the best child car seat or pushchair can be daunting, with so many products to choose from. Our pushchair chooser tool will help you find the best pushchair type for you, while you can put your mind at ease by choosing a Best Buy baby car seat, knowing it has passed our tough safety tests and should be easy to fit, too.

It can be an expensive time, so use our guide to the most useful baby products according to parents to make sure you’re not wasting money on products that you won’t need.

At Which? we can help you save money during this pretty expensive time by making sure you get the best products for your money. In the video below, you can see a few examples of what Which? can do for parents.

18 weeks pregnant: boy or girl?

At 18-20 weeks you will have a foetal anomaly scan (also known as the 20-week scan or mid-pregnancy scan), which will give a good idea of whether there are any problems with your baby’s brain, digestive tract, heart or kidneys. From this scan a doctor or midwife will probably also be able to tell the sex of your baby, although this isn’t 100% accurate and surprises do happen.

It’s a good idea to visit your dentist at this time, as pregnancy can affect your oral health. Dental care and prescriptions are free during pregnancy and until 12 months after your due date. To qualify for this you need to apply for a maternity exemption certificate using a form you get from your doctor or midwife.

It’s also advisable to book antenatal classes – although these start towards the end of pregnancy (usually 30-32 weeks), they get booked up quickly. Ask your midwife for details on NHS antenatal classes in your area. Ask your midwife for details on NHS antenatal classes in your area. If you’re considering paid alternatives, find out about private antenatal classes to see how they compare.

You may also wish to secure peace of mind for your growing family by organising your legal and financial arrangements. Which? Wills can help you create a will and appoint a suitable guardian for your new arrival. By leaving your estate to your children and future children you will not need to keep re-writing your will every time your family grows.

23 weeks pregnant: maternity leave and creating your birth plan

By this time your MATB1 maternity certificate should be available from your doctor or midwife to give to your employer. You have until the end of week 25 to provide your employer with all the necessary information. Check what your maternity rights are to make sure you have everything covered. For tips from other mums on how to have a happy and healthy pregnancy whilst still working, check out the Power to the Bump site.

If you haven’t decided where you want to give birth yet, it’s a good idea to start visiting local maternity units to find out which ones have the facilities you need. For example, if you’re very keen to use water in labour, finding out how many birth pools your local units have to help you choose between them. Creating a birth plan can help you figure out what’s important to you and what you would prefer to happen when the time comes .

Now would also be a good time to think about buying a moses basket or baby crib. Also visit our cot bed reviews if you’re thinking about buying one before your baby is born.

24 weeks pregnant: nappies and feeding

If you plan to breastfeed your baby, you might want to think about buying a breast pump. Our guide to choosing a breast pump will help you find the best one for you.

It’s also a good idea to stock up on nappies, which your little one will get through at lightning speed. Think about whether or not you will want to use reusable or disposable nappies, and prepare a changing bag for swapping nappies when you’re out and about.

33 weeks pregnant: packing your hospital bag

As you enter your third trimester and your due date gets closer, it’s a good idea to prepare for your baby’s birth, especially if you’re having twins, where 37 weeks is considered full term. Whether you’ve decided on a home birth or have booked in at a birth centre or hospital, our guide to what to pack for your baby’s birth will give you a list of all the essentials you need, with recommendations from parents.

If you haven’t yet decided where you’re giving birth, our Birth Choice tool helps you find local birth centres and maternity units that are the best fit for you. You can find out what facilities and pain relief options are available at your local units as well as statistics about the kind of births that take place there such as water births.

Interested in a home birth? The Birth Choice tool will also tell you how to arrange one with midwives from your local units.

34 weeks pregnant: relaxing and thinking ahead

As the birth draws nearer, it’s worth considering whether or not you will need childcare for your child if you decide to go back to work. Our guide to childcare is packed with advice to help you make an informed decision.

40 weeks pregnant: welcoming your baby into the world

By 40 weeks you are considered full term and your baby could arrive any time. You should have already bought a suitable child car seat for your baby, as it’s against the law to take your baby home from the hospital by car without one. Don’t forget your maternity bag!

Your baby: the first few months

For peace of mind while your baby is sleeping, find the best baby monitor so you can keep an ear – and even an eye – on your baby. As your baby starts showing signs of teething between 4-6 months, you might start looking for a high chair. Check out our expert high chair reviews so you’re prepared for some messy fun as your little one begins exploring food (a Best Buy laundry detergent will also come in rather handy…)

More from Which?

Share this
Advice for every step of your pregnancy

We can support you on your journey as a parent with relevant news, advice and information on Which? services directly to your inbox.