If you’re a first-time mum or hoping to fall pregnant soon, you likely want to read up on all the information you can ahead of this wondrous journey. Starting this new chapter of your life can even seem a little daunting, but we are here to help. At Home Health UK, we are pleased to offer a range of products for pregnancy and ovulation which you can shop online now. But find the information you need on antenatal care here for practical advice and guidance.
Antenatal care is the care you get during pregnancy from midwives, doctors and, if required, specialist doctors. Essentially, it is all the fussing around you as an en expecting mother given by healthcare professionals. As excessive as antenatal care may sometimes seem, it is very important as it is essential to keep an eye on your health, well–being and that of your growing baby.
Antenatal care also includes the advice and guidance provided by your midwife and other healthcare professionals on how to care for your coming arrival. In simple terms, it covers what to expect when you’re expecting!
Antenatal classes help you to prepare physically and emotionally for the birth of your baby. In the classes, you can ask questions and explore how you can give birth. The classes allow you to ask the questions you need answers to and seek clarification and further advice on any information you have been told.
You may wonder if antenatal classes are necessary, especially if this is not your first baby. But, antenatal care is the key to healthy mothers and babies. So, it’s very important you attend your appointments. Plus, it is not just about learning key information to properly care for your new arrival and yourself, although you may learn updated tips and information. It is also the opportunity you need to formulate a birth plan that works for you.
You should attend antenatal classes if you can help it. These sessions are an important part of your pregnancy journey that can help aid your physical and mental health.
After confirmation of your pregnancy, your doctor will make arrangements for antenatal care. Most women have their first and longest antenatal check–up between weeks 8 and 12 of pregnancy. The earlier you start attending antenatal check-ups, the better. You should then attend antenatal check-ups once a month until 28 weeks, then twice a month until you are 36 weeks pregnant.
During the last four weeks of your pregnancy, you should attend antenatal classes every week. Where you receive antenatal care may depend on your personal situation, they are usually carried out at your doctor‘s surgery but can also be at your local hospital, health centre, young person centre or even from home.
Your first antenatal appointment will be the longest, usually an hour long, and it is often referred to as your ‘booking appointment’. You will be given plenty of information and will be given your maternity notes, these must then be brought along to all future appointments. At the appointment, you will be asked many questions. The answers will help the doctor or midwife discover anything that could affect your pregnancy or your baby.
At your first antenatal appointment, you might expect to be asked questions on the following:
You will have regular checks on your heart and lungs to ensure your general health is good. Your blood pressure will be closely monitored throughout your pregnancy. Most women tend to suffer from swollen ankles towards the end of pregnancy. This usually happens towards the end of the day, especially if you have been on your feet. If you notice a lot of swelling in your hands and feet, consult your midwife or doctor, as it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that often develops in late pregnancy and is characterised by a rise in blood pressure and swelling of hands, feet or face.
Mild pre-eclampsia is not dangerous but needs to be treated as it can progress to more serious conditions. Severe pre-eclampsia can produce symptoms such as severe headaches and abdominal pain. In rare cases, women with pre-eclampsia can develop full–blown eclampsia. Eclampsia describes one or more convulsions, or seizures, occurring during or immediately after pregnancy. If you have any worries, you should consult your doctor, who will carefully monitor your condition.
Your abdomen will be felt each visit to check the rate at which your baby grows and the position.
It is unlikely that this will be carried out on your first visit, and you usually may only need one during labour. However, on occasion, your doctor may carry out an internal examination, enabling them to feel the size of your uterus; this will help estimate your pregnancy stage.
During this procedure, you will be asked to lie on your back with your legs bent and your knees apart. The doctor will place two fingers of one of their hands into your vagina and press your abdomen gently with the other hand. This examination will not hurt, and if you relax, it will not even be uncomfortable. Most doctors prefer an ultrasound at the first or later visit. They must always ask your permission before carrying out an internal investigation.
Your height is a rough guide to the size of your pelvis. You can sometimes have a difficult delivery if you have a small pelvis. If you are over 5ft, you are unlikely to have any problems.
You will also be weighed on your first visit, and then your weight gain should be checked regularly. Some clinics/hospitals will weigh you at every visit, and others may not. If you are weighed at every visit, you should consider wearing similar–weight clothes on each visit. Most weight gain will be after week 20, and this will be about 22 -28 pounds.
Blood samples will be required on your first visit. This blood test will check for:
You will be asked to give a urine sample on every visit. The urine will be checked for the following:
You will be advised on healthy eating, and what foods to avoid and will be given recommendations on what vitamins you should take.
If you are over the age of 37, you may be offered some special tests. If you fall into this category, your doctor will discuss these with you.
After the booking appointment, future visits are much shorter. They are usually only about 10-15 minutes, provided there are no complications.
You will be offered two scans during your pregnancy. These are usually on week 12 and week 20. You will be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat after week 14 with a device called a Sonicaid, which amplifies the beat so that it can be heard.
After week 16, you will usually have an ultrasound scan. However, this may be carried out at any stage. This process is completely safe and painless. An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to build up a picture of the baby in the uterus (womb). You and your partner can watch the picture displayed on a small screen, and sometimes you will be given a copy of the picture to keep. This will usually be the first time you will actually see your baby moving around, and it will make the baby seem real for the first time.
Around week 16 of pregnancy, you may have a blood test for A.F.P. (Alpha-fetoprotein). A.F.P. is a substance found in the blood, and high levels could indicate that your baby has a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. If the result is positive, further tests, such as an amniocentesis, will be carried out. An amniocentesis is used to detect spina bifida and Downs syndrome. This test involves a small (1 in 100) risk of miscarriage, so it is not a routine test. You are more likely to be offered this test if you are over 37.
Many women sometimes feel bored and frustrated with the lengthy procedures at the clinic. Try taking your partner or a friend with you to keep you company. You must attend antenatal appointments to ensure you and your baby receive all the care and attention needed to maintain a healthy, happy pregnancy.
For more information on your pregnancy, you can find more advice and articles in our family planning information hub. You can also explore a range of fertility aids, pregnancy and ovulation tests available online at Home Health UK.
If you have any queries or concerns, you may find the answers you need here in our most frequently asked questions regarding antenatal care. For urgent or pressing concerns, you should contact your midwife or GP for advice.
As standard, you should start antenatal classes between 8 and 10 weeks before your due date. This would make you between 30 and 32 weeks pregnant. However, if necessary, attending some introductory antenatal classes earlier in your pregnancy is possible.
If you are pregnant with twins, you should plan to start your antenatal classes earlier, at around 24 weeks pregnant. This is because your babies are most likely to be born earlier.
If you are a working mother, you are entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal classes. This means you can take paid time off work for any appointments or visits you need to have with your midwife or doctor that fall within your usual working hours. This can include both medical appointments and parenting or relaxation classes.
You are entitled to this paid time off for antenatal appointments if you are entitled to maternity leave. This means it does not matter how long you have been at an organisation. You do not need to make this time back, and your payroll for the full day should remain unaffected.
You should take advantage and enjoy every antenatal class you attend as these free sessions help you to prepare for your baby’s birth. As well as fill you with the confidence and information you need to prepare yourself for this new addition.
As mentioned here, antenatal care is provided during pregnancy and before the baby’s arrival. Once labour has finished, you then enter into postnatal care, which extends for six weeks after the baby’s birthday. This period is equally important as antenatal care as it allows your midwife and doctor to monitor the health of both mother and baby to ensure both are happy and healthy.