As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, it’s important to book in with the NHS, so you can receive free maternity care during your pregnancy.
Finding out you’re pregnant is both exciting and scary, and it can be tricky to know what to do next. As a first step, you should contact the NHS via one of the methods below, to register your pregnancy and begin your antenatal care.
You’ll then be given a time for your booking appointment – your first meeting with a midwife – which usually takes place when you’re around 8 to 12 weeks pregnant.
While you wait for the booking appointment, you can start to look into your maternity options for the birth, and it’s also a good idea to start taking a folic acid supplement as early as possible.
Book through your chosen maternity unit or birth centre
If you know of a local hospital or birth centre where you might like to have your baby, you can book with them directly.
Use our search to look up your chosen maternity unit and view the information on ‘How to book once you’re pregnant’. This will show you the phone number to call and information on other ways to book, such as online.
Some things to remember:
- Don’t worry if you’re not sure at this stage where you’d like to give birth. Even if you’re asked to put down a place of birth now, you can still change your mind later in pregnancy as your needs and preferences change.
- Some birth centres will only provide care for women once they’re further on in their pregnancy, so you might need to book your maternity care through the hospital initially.
- If you want to book in for a home birth, it should be possible to arrange this through your local maternity unit by phone or online. In some cases, you can book through the community midwives directly. Search for your area and click on the home birth link under your local hospital for more information.
Book maternity care through your GP
Contact your GP surgery and they’ll be able to tell you if they have a midwife based there with whom you can discuss your options and arrange antenatal care.
You don’t have to see your GP unless you want to.
Book at your local Children’s Centre
If you live in England, you can contact your local Children’s Centre and ask to speak to a midwife to find out if you can arrange care through them. Be aware that midwives may only be available at Children’s Centres at certain times.
Booking non-NHS maternity care
- In some areas, free care is available on the NHS provided by non-NHS midwives. Read about care from non-NHS midwives.
- Private care is available in private maternity hospitals and wings of some NHS hospitals. Find out about non-NHS birth facilities.
- To book care with a private midwifery service or independent midwife, see our information on paid-for midwifery care.
Having problems booking the maternity care you want?
If you aren’t able to access the care you want, contact your local Professional Midwifery Advocate (PMA) through the hospital switchboard phone number; they should be able to help you.
If you’re still having problems, contact the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS) for support and information about your choices and rights.
Find out more about your rights during pregnancy, including the right to choose where you have your baby.
More from Which?
- Pregnancy week by week: Read our guide to find out what you should be thinking about and when.
- How to budget for having a baby: Getting to grips with your finances will give you peace of mind for the months ahead.
- The benefits of knowing your midwife: How getting to know your midwife in pregnancy can be beneficial for you and your baby.