NHS & private maternity care

Your antenatal appointments

6 min read

Find out how many times you’ll see a midwife during your pregnancy, what will happen at the appointments and how to make the most of your maternity care.

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Throughout the nine months that you’re pregnant, you’ll have a schedule of appointments with midwives or doctors so they can make sure you and your baby are healthy and everything is going well.

How many antenatal appointments will I have?

At your booking appointment, you’ll get your own timeline of appointments drawn up in your NHS maternity notes.

In general, as long as you’re healthy and your pregnancy is progressing as expected, you’ll see your midwife (or team of midwives) around 10 times if it’s your first baby, and seven times if you’ve given birth before.

Depending on where you live, some of your antenatal appointments may be with your GP, and if you’re at higher risk of pregnancy complications you may see a consultant who specialises in pregnancy and birth.

You can find out more details about what will happen at each appointment in our pregnancy week-by-week guide.

The appointments can take place in different locations, including your GP surgery, children’s centre or your own home. If you have requests about where you want to be seen, you can ask your midwife or doctor for your local options.

What happens at antenatal appointments?

At every appointment, your midwife or doctor will do a number of routine checks to make sure that you’re healthy and your baby is developing well. Your midwife will:

  • Listen to your baby’s heartbeat to check that it’s beating at a steady rhythm and that blood is flowing from the placenta to your baby.
  • Check your blood pressure to make sure you aren’t at risk of developing pre-eclampsia. If your blood pressure is measuring high, you could be advised to go to triage to monitor your blood pressure for a longer period of time.
  • Do a urine test which can help your midwife spot signs of an infection or common pregnancy conditions like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.

From your 28-week appointment onwards, your midwife or doctor will also:

  • Measure your bump (fundal height) to check that your baby is growing at the right rate. If you’re measuring larger or smaller than expected, you may be referred for a growth scan to check the size of your baby and the amount of amniotic fluid that surrounds him or her.
  • Have a feel of your bump (palpate) to see if your baby is head-down and how engaged your baby’s head is in your pelvis. If your baby is in the breech position or lying sideways (transverse) at around 37 weeks, your midwife can talk to you about your options for trying to turn the baby around or giving birth to your breech baby vaginally or by c-section.

Antenatal appointments and scans

What else can my midwife help me with?

Midwives are experts in straight-forward pregnancies and births, so they are a great first port of call for questions about random symptoms you’re experiencing or anything that’s worrying you.

For example, your midwife can:

  • Help you prepare for labour and birth by talking through the pros and cons of having a home birth, giving birth in a birth centre or on a labour ward; as well as helping you write your birth plan and tell you which signs of labour to look out for.
  • Check that your baby is moving as expected and advise on how you should monitor their movements during your pregnancy.
  • Go through scans and screening tests that you have had and that you will be offered, and give you anti-D injections if you have RhD negative blood.
  • Advise you on diet and exercise to help you avoid injuries and make sure you get the nutrition that you and your baby need.
  • Give you advice on pregnancy symptoms and health problems like headaches, heartburn, pelvic pain and back pain.
  • Talk to you about your plans for feeding your baby and answer any other questions about caring for a newborn.

Sometimes, the most difficult conversations are also the most important. During appointments with your midwife, you should feel able to bring up any problems that you’re having. This might include:

  • Mental health issues: You may have heard of postnatal depression, but feelings of anxiety or depression are also common when you’re pregnant, especially if you have suffered from mental illness earlier in your life. Talking to your midwife about your feelings can get you the help you need.
  • Domestic abuse and sexual violence: One in four women experience domestic violence during their lifetime and the threat is higher during pregnancy. So, if this is happening to you, first of all know that you’re far from alone. Your midwife can refer you to specialist services and suggest options to keep you safe.
  • Smoking, alcohol and drug use: You’re probably aware that smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs during pregnancy can have a negative effect on your baby, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to stop. By talking to your midwife you can be referred to services that can help you give up, and plan for the safe birth of your baby.

Midwives are there to support you throughout pregnancy and to help you and your baby get the best start in life together. Your midwife will do their best to help you, or refer you to someone who is better placed to do so.

Find the right place to give birth

Discover whether birth in a local labour ward, birth centre or at home would be best for you.

Find your best fit

How to get the most out of your midwife appointment: 7 quick tips

  1. Write down a list of questions you want to ask in advance.
  2. Make notes of what your midwife says.
  3. Ask for explanations of anything you don’t understand.
  4. If your midwife can’t help with a specific problem, ask who you should contact instead.
  5. Check if your midwife knows of local services and support groups, for example for breastfeeding.
  6. Ask if there are leaflets or websites where you can find more information.
  7. Bring your birth partner or another family member or friend with you if you would like someone there for support.

You can also download this list of tips to keep at hand on your phone.

Remember, there are no stupid questions. Your midwife is likely to have heard it all before and would much rather you ask too many questions  than too few.

Can I get time off work for antenatal care?

When you’re pregnant you have a legal right to paid time off work for every antenatal appointment that your midwife or doctor thinks that you should have. You should also be paid for the travel time.

Your partner has the right to take unpaid time off work to come with you to two appointments, although some employers may allow the time off with pay.

How can I get help between antenatal appointments?

At the front of your maternity notes that you get at your booking appointment, your midwife or doctor will write down contact information for your midwifery team as well as triage at your local hospital, so you always have a way of getting advice when you need it.

If you have any concerns, it’s always better to speak to someone and put your mind at rest rather than waiting weeks until your next appointment.

More from Which?


References

These are the sources of information used in this article:

NICE, Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies, NICE Clinical Guideline 62, London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2008)

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