Starting your antenatal care: what to expect

Antenatal care ensures you and your baby are supported throughout your pregnancy. 

Being pregnant is an exciting time but it can also be daunting for mums-to-be, especially when you don’t know what to expect. Antenatal care is dedicated to giving you the support and healthcare you and your baby need while you’re pregnant. It will also give you the chance to set up a plan for your birth and to get any concerns you may have answered by the midwife or obstetrician (doctor specialising in pregnancy).

One of the biggest decisions a pregnant woman can make is whether to choose private or NHS healthcare for her antenatal care. Generally, women will receive the same services but if you choose private maternity services you will have more choice over who takes care of you and where and how you give birth.

To help you make an informed decision, here is what you can expect during antenatal care.

How do you get antenatal care?

When you first find out you’re pregnant you should tell your GP. It’s best to visit your GP before you have been pregnant for 10 weeks because they need to carry about tests that should be taken early on in your pregnancy. These tests check for sickle cell disease, thalassaemia, Down’s syndrome and infectious diseases. By getting tested early, you and your partner can make an informed decision if your baby is affected.

Scan

At this appointment, your GP should ask you questions about your health and whether you have been pregnant before. It’s important that you are open with them about your health and history so they can set up an antenatal plan that fully supports you and your baby.

You will also be given information on what foods to avoid and how to exercise while you’re pregnant, folic acid and vitamin D supplements and about lifestyle factors you should take into consideration.

At this stage, both NHS and private healthcare services are relatively similar, but you can choose to opt for private healthcare for your antenatal programme.

Your GP will advise you to organise your next appointment where you will meet your midwife and, if necessary, an obstetrician.

What happens at your booking appointment?

Your booking appointment normally takes place at 8-12 weeks. If you choose to have an all-inclusive private healthcare package, you may have this appointment in your chosen hospital or health centre.

You will meet with your midwife and discuss your antenatal care. They will explain more about the development of your baby and how you can expect your body to change. You will also be given pelvic floor exercises to do and they will point you towards breastfeeding workshops and antenatal classes. If you choose to go private, you will able to choose which midwife you see and usually they will support you through the whole of your pregnancy and birth.

This appointment gives you chance to plan your labour and where you want to have your baby. You can choose whether you want to give birth in hospital or at home. Around 2.3% of women choose to give birth at home in England and Wales, with the overwhelming majority opting for hospital1. If you opt for private care, you can choose the hospital that you give birth at, and you will be given information about the ones that are closest to you. There is the option to have most of your antenatal care on the NHS and just your birth at a private hospital. This option usually costs around £2,000, or you can choose to pay around £70 a night for a private room in an NHS hospital.

It’s also likely that you will have an ultrasound 3D 4D scan at this appointment. You will see your growing baby for the first time.

What questions can you expect to be asked?

During your booking appointment, you will be asked a series of questions about your health, the answers to which will help your midwife and obstetrician set up the most appropriate plan for your antenatal care.

You will be asked about:

  • The date of the first day of your last period
  • Any previous pregnancies or miscarriages
  • Your health and mental health, including any medication you are taking
  • Any previous illnesses and operations
  • Your ethnic origins – this is to determine if your baby is at risk of developing certain hereditary illnesses
  • You and your partner’s current job and situation which could affect your pregnancy

How many appointments will you have?

Most women have around 10 antenatal appointments. If there are any health concerns for you or your baby, you may have more. These 10 appointments exclude any antenatal classes which prepare you and your partner for what to do during birth. Your midwife will advise when these appointments should be and they are booked in advance. If you cannot attend any appointments, you should inform them in advance and make another appointment at your earliest convenience.

Is it easy to get appointments?

In 2015, there were 697,852 live births in England and Wales, and with so many women pregnant at the same time waiting times to be seen can be high in NHS hospitals2. It is much easier to get seen when you opt for private antenatal care and you will usually see the same team throughout your care.

What to expect from your midwife?

Pregnancy
Having the ability to choose the midwife and care team who will look after you throughout your pregnancy is one of the main differences between choosing private over NHS antenatal care. Some 54% of London expectant mums in a recent survey admitted that they weren’t given an individual midwife to call. This form of care can feel impersonal which can lead to women feeling anxious about birth and their baby, which is why some women prefer to opt for private antenatal healthcare.

There are four types of midwives who look after pregnant women.

Independent midwives – Private midwives who are usually self-employed. You would normally see the same midwife at every appointment and they will deliver your baby.

Hospital midwives – These midwives focus on helping women during labour, usually at hospital.

Team midwives – Working together, team midwives look after pregnant women in a specific geographic area. You should have one point of contact who you can get in touch with if you have any problems, and they will deliver your baby either at hospital or at home.

Community midwives – They are employed by hospitals and look after mums-to-be in the local area. As well as offering antenatal care, they will deliver your baby and visit you after you have given birth to offer advice and guidance.

What are maternity notes?

Throughout your antenatal care, you will be asked to take your maternity notes with you. These are written in a record book and will be added to at every appointment. You look after them at home and then take them to every appointment. They help keep track of any progress or health concerns during your pregnancy and will also include advice and guidance, so it’s important that you keep looking at your record book and understand what each note means.

If you would prefer to have more choice over your antenatal care, choosing private maternity services could suit you. Contact us to book an appointment.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 

or make an online enquiry.

Sources

1http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/livebirths/bulletins/characteristicsofbirth2/2014-11-17
2https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/livebirths/bulletins/birthsummarytablesenglandandwales/2015

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