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Antenatal appointments - Your antenatal appointments

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Regular antenatal appointments are a good way to make sure you and your baby are healthy and get all the care and support you need during your pregnancy. Make the most of the time you have to ask your midwife or GP any questions. As well as the routine checks and tests that need to be carried out, the appointments are a good chance for you to get all the information and advice you need.

Your antenatal appointments may take place at your home, in a Children's Centre, in your GP's surgery or in a hospital. They should always be in a setting where you feel able to discuss any issues or sensitive problems that may affect you, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental illness or drug use.

Early appointments

In your early antenatal appointments your midwife or GP will assess whether you need any extra care during your pregnancy and whether you are at risk of any particular conditions.

You can expect to be asked lots of questions on your health, any previous pregnancies, you and your partners' family origins, any illnesses that run in your family and your personal circumstances, such as where you work and live.

These questions and some simple tests, such as urine tests and blood tests, help to build a picture of you and your pregnancy and any special risks or needs you may have.

During your early appointments you should also receive information on the antenatal screening tests you will be offered. These are tests to assess whether your baby is at risk of having certain conditions and abnormalities but they do not offer a diagnosis. You do not have to have these screening tests. Your midwife or GP should explain that it is your decision whether or not to have these tests, and the possible implications of your decision.

Your first contact with your midwife or doctor

After you find out you are pregnant you should contact a midwife or your GP as soon as possible and arrange your first appointment. This first meeting is mainly to give you information about your health and care during your pregnancy. This includes:

It is also important to tell your midwife or doctor if:

  • you had any complications or infections in a previous pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia or a premature birth,
  • you are being treated for a chronic disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure,
  • you or anyone in your family has previously had a baby with an abnormality, such as spina bifida, or
  • you have a family history of an inherited disease, such as cystic fibrosis.

Booking appointment

Your booking appointment is usually carried out by a midwife and normally takes place between eight to 12 weeks into your pregnancy.

Your midwife should give you information on:

  • how a baby develops during pregnancy,
  • nutrition and diet,
  • exercise,
  • antenatal screening tests,
  • care you will receive during your pregnancy,
  • where you can have your baby,
  • breastfeeding, including workshops,
  • antenatal education, and
  • maternity benefits.

Your midwife or doctor will also:

  • give you your antenatal notes,
  • see if you need any additional care or support during your pregnancy,
  • plan the care you will get during your pregnancy,
  • ask about your job to identify any potential risks,
  • measure your height and weight and work out your body mass index,
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein, (this may indicate infection or, later in your pregnancy, pre-eclampsia),
  • find out if you are at an increased risk of gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia,
  • ask about mental illness and whether you have had any signs of depression,
  • offer you screening tests and explain what is involved before you make your decision to have them,
  • offer you an ultrasound scan to check when your baby is due,
  • offer you an ultrasound scan at 18-20 weeks to check the physical development of your baby.

Later appointments

The rest of your antenatal appointments will be more tailored to your individual needs and situation. If your pregnancy has been uncomplicated and you are well, you may not be seen as often.

Your later appointments will usually be quite short. Your midwife or doctor will usually check:

  • your urine, blood pressure and sometimes your weight,
  • the baby's position and growth, and
  • your baby's heartbeat (if you want them to).

From 24 weeks your midwife or doctor should check on your baby's growth at each appointment you have. They measure the distance from the top of your uterus (womb) to your pubic bone. If they have any concerns, you will be offered an ultrasound scan.

In the last weeks of pregnancy you may be asked to keep a track of your baby's movements. If they become less frequent, slow down or stop you should contact your midwife or doctor immediately.

Later appointments also start to prepare you for the birth of your baby. You will be given information on how to prepare for labour and birth, looking after you and your new baby and breastfeeding.

Appointment schedule

16 weeks

Your midwife or doctor will:

  • review, discuss and record the results of any screening tests you have had done,
  • measure your blood pressure and check your urine for protein, and
  • offer you an iron supplement, if you are thought to be anaemic.

18-20 weeks (anomaly scan)

Between 18 and 20 weeks you will be offered an ultrasound scan to check the physical development of your baby and to check there are no structural abnormalities. You can choose not to have this screening test.

25 weeks

You may have an appointment at 25 weeks if this is your first baby.  At this appointment your midwife or doctor will:

  • check the size of your uterus, and
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein.

28 weeks

Your midwife or doctor should:

  • use a tape to measure the size of your uterus,
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein,
  • offer more screening tests, and
  • offer treatment if you are rhesus D-negative.

For more information on Rhesus disease see our A-Z topic page.

31 weeks

You may have another appointment at 31 weeks if this is your first baby. At the appointment your midwife or doctor should:

  • review, discuss and record the results of any screening tests you had at your last appointment,
  • use a tape to measure the size of your uterus,
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein.

34 weeks

Around 34 weeks your midwife or doctor should start to give you information about preparing for labour and the birth of your baby including how to recognise active labour, ways of coping with pain in labour and your birth plan. They should also:

  • review, discuss and record the results of any screening tests you had at your last appointment,
  • use a tape to measure the size of your uterus,
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein, and
  • offer your second treatment if you are rhesus D-negative.

36 weeks

At 36 weeks you should be given information on the following topics:

  • feeding and caring for your baby,
  • vitamin K and the screening tests offered for your newborn baby, and
  • your health after giving birth, including "baby blues" and post-natal depression.

Your midwife or doctor will also:

  • use a tape to check the size of your uterus,
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein, and
  • check the position of your baby and discuss options to turn the baby if it is positioned bottom first (breech).

38 weeks

You will be given information about what happens if your pregnancy lasts longer than 41 weeks and your midwife or doctor will:

  • use a tape measure to check the size of your uterus (womb), and
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein.

40 weeks

You may have an appointment at 40 weeks if this is your first child. Your midwife or doctor should:

  • use a tape to measure the size of your uterus,
  • measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein.

41 weeks

At 41 weeks your midwife or doctor will go through the routine health checks, including checking your uterus, blood pressure and urine. They will also offer you a membrane sweep. This is a vaginal examination which stimulates the neck of your uterus (the cervix) to produce hormones that may trigger natural labour. If this fails, you will be offered an induction to start your labour artificially.

For more information on induction read the NICE guidelines public information.

Medical Review: February 25, 2010
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