NHS & private maternity care

Your booking appointment

5 min read

The first appointment you have with a midwife, when you’re around 8 to 12 weeks pregnant, gets you booked in for maternity care provided by a particular hospital or NHS Trust.

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When you find out you’re pregnant, get in touch directly with the midwives at your local maternity unit, or speak to your GP or Children’s Centre, to schedule your first antenatal appointment.

What happens at the booking appointment?

At the booking appointment, your midwife will want to get an overview of your health and medical history to plan your maternity care.

They’ll ask you questions about:

  • your physical and mental health, including any pre-existing medical conditions you have and medication you’re taking
  • your family’s medical history and any genetic conditions you’re aware of
  • the health and medical history of the baby’s father
  • both parents’ ethnic origin
  • your current lifestyle, including diet and exercise
  • your job and plans for working during pregnancy
  • how you’re feeling at this stage in the pregnancy – both physically and emotionally
  • any previous pregnancies and births, including miscarriages
  • the date of your last period.

Your midwife will also do a few routine checks, some of which will be repeated at later antenatal appointments. They will:

  • measure your blood pressure
  • take a blood test
  • test a urine sample
  • take weight and height measurements, to calculate your BMI.

All the information gathered during your booking appointment will help medical staff to identify any factors which may put you at increased risk of complications during pregnancy or birth. This means they can provide you with the right maternity care and support throughout your pregnancy.

Your midwife will also calculate your estimated due date, based on the date of your last period. This will be further confirmed by a dating scan between weeks 10 to 14.

You will be given your NHS maternity notes, with your own timeline of antenatal appointments and details of who to call if you have any questions or concerns in between appointments. You’ll keep these notes with you throughout pregnancy.

Choosing where to give birth

At the booking appointment, you’ll have a first discussion about where you’d like to give birth: at home, at a birth centre or in a labour ward.

Don’t worry if it sounds daunting to think about where to give birth so early on in your pregnancy. You can still change your mind later on if you decide that you would like to have your baby somewhere else that better suits your needs and preferences.

In this video Cathy Warwick, former chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, explains that you can change where you’d like to give birth:

If you don’t yet know where you would like to have your baby, use our unique Birth Choice tool to explore the local facilities most suited to you.

When will I have my booking appointment?

Ideally, the booking appointment should take place by week 10 of pregnancy, so there’s plenty of time to fit in your first ultrasound scan and any other recommended screening tests before the end of the first trimester.

The appointment probably won’t be much earlier than eight weeks, as the risk of miscarriage is higher before this point. If you haven’t booked in with the NHS until 12 weeks or later, you should have your booking appointment as soon as possible.

How long will the booking appointment take?

The booking appointment may take up to an hour, as there’s a lot to cover during this first visit. In some places, this will be split into two shorter sessions – you’ll be told what to expect when you register your pregnancy and the appointment is scheduled.

If you have your booking appointment at a local hospital, you may have a dating scan at the same time. Otherwise, this will take place during the next few weeks and you should be able to book a time with your midwife during this appointment.

How to prepare for your booking appointment

As well as going in with an idea of what your midwife will want to discuss at this first meeting, it’s good to spend some time before the appointment thinking about any questions you’d like to ask.

To help you prepare:

  • Work out the date of your last period.
  • Make notes of the medical information you may need, including anything you know about your family history and details of any medication you’re taking.
  • Write down any questions you’d like to ask the midwife.
  • If you’ve been asked to bring along a urine sample, do this shortly before your appointment.
  • Wear a sleeveless or loose-fitting top, so the midwife can easily take your blood pressure.
  • Bring a pen and paper to write down anything you want to remember or check after the appointment.

You might like your partner or a friend with you for support, and they can also help to take notes or remember things for you.

However, the midwife will be asking you some personal questions, so they may ask anyone else to leave the room at certain points during the appointment.

Anything discussed with your midwife is completely confidential. See our guide on how to speak to your midwife about any problems or concerns you have.

Questions to ask the midwife at your booking appointment

Your booking appointment is the perfect time to raise questions or voice any worries you’ve been having in the early weeks of pregnancy.

Your midwife can offer advice on everything, from what foods to avoid or how to cope with pregnancy symptoms, to finding mental health support services or giving up smoking.

You might like to ask:

  • What medication is it safe to take during pregnancy?
  • What vitamin supplements should I be taking?
  • Can I continue to exercise when I’m pregnant?
  • Where can I find local antenatal classes?
  • Who can I speak to about mental health concerns?

If it’s not brought up during the appointment, you should also ask your midwife for:

  • A maternity exemption certificate, which you can use to receive free NHS prescriptions and dental care during pregnancy and in your baby’s first year.
  • Information about your birth options. You can also use our Birth Choice tool to find the local services and facilities that are best suited to you.

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

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