Your booking appointment
How do I book my maternity care?
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 to register your pregnancy and begin your antenatal care.
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.
If you know of a local hospital or birth centre where you might like to have your maternity care and give birth, you can contact the midwives there directly. Otherwise, you can go through your GP or Children’s Centre.
Next, you’ll 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.
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.
- 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.
Choosing where to give birth
Don’t worry if it sounds daunting to think about 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.
Your maternity notes
Your midwife will make notes about your health, family history and preferences for the birth in a booklet, known as your maternity notes.
When will I have my booking appointment?
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 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.
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 ?
- 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 during pregnancy and in your baby’s first year.
- Information about your birth options – you can also use our to find the setting best suited to you.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has issued new guidance, saying that a minimum of six face-to-face antenatal consultations should take place during the coronavirus pandemic.
Virtual consultations will be offered where appropriate, ensuring that women are seen in one-stop clinics that cover all medical and obstetric needs in the same visit, and making use of home monitoring of blood pressure where it’s safe to do so.
This is to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and to enable greater compliance with social distancing measures recommended for both pregnant women and maternity staff.
However, risk assessment will be carried out to ensure that women with particular vulnerabilities, including psychosocial and safeguarding issues as well as medical and obstetric complications, are prioritised.
Routine antenatal care is essential for detecting common complications of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and urine infections that don’t present symptoms.
It says, ‘There is a potential risk of harm to you and your baby if you don’t attend your appointments, even in the context of coronavirus.’
Gill Walton, CEO of the RCM, says, ‘If you are pregnant, with no coronavirus symptoms, you should continue to go to your antenatal appointments as usual, while following the social distancing guidance of keeping a two-metre distance from others and using private transport if possible.
‘Even if you have symptoms, contact your midwife and they will work with you to ensure you continue to get the care and support you and your baby need.’
Your birth partner should be allowed to attend antenatal appointments with you. But check with your maternity team to see if this is the case.
If you are in self-isolation and have an antenatal appointment coming up, you should contact your midwife or antenatal clinic to inform them of your situation.
It’s likely that your routine appointments will be delayed until your isolation period ends. If your maternity team advise you that your appointment can’t wait, the necessary arrangements will be made for you to be seen.
If you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should also contact your maternity team and they’ll arrange the right place and time for you to attend your appointments: you should not attend a routine clinic.
With regards to antenatal classes, the NHS is hoping to offer virtual ones. The RCOG suggests contacting your local maternity service to find out how they will support you.
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has launched its antenatal classes in a virtual format and will be providing online courses for the foreseeable future.
If you have any concerns about the wellbeing or yourself or your unborn baby during your self-isolation period, contact your midwife or, out of hours, your maternity team for further advice on whether you need to attend hospital or not.