Antenatal care means the care you receive throughout your pregnancy and before birth. Antenatal care aims to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your developing baby.
What to expect
In Scotland, the National Health Service (NHS) gives you pregnancy and postnatal care.
Your antenatal care aims to check that you and your baby are well, to pick up any problems before they become serious, and to give you the chance to ask questions. Some may be at hospital, but most will probably take place at the midwives’ or GPs’ clinic or at home.
You will have between eight and ten appointments over the course of your pregnancy. You can expect to discuss such aspects of your lifestyle as diet, exercise, alcohol and drug intake, sexual activity and smoking. You will be offered routine screening tests for specific conditions.
Some women like to take along a list of questions so they don’t forget anything, while others like to jot down notes to look at afterwards.
Don’t forget, if you are working, you’re entitled to time off to attend antenatal appointments.
The booking appointment
This is your first major appointment and usually takes place when you’re between eight and twelve weeks pregnant. You’ll be seen by a midwife either at her clinic (which may be at your GP practice) or in your home. This visit can last around an hour and gives you a chance to talk to the midwife about the care you’ll have during your pregnancy and after your baby is born. You can bring your partner to the booking appointment too, if you'd like.
Watch the clip of Chloe at her first appointment with her midwife Lauren
What happens at your booking appointment
Don’t expect to be in and out in five minutes! There’s a lot to get through. These are some of the things that could happen:
- you’ll be asked lots of questions about your health and family health
- the midwife will explain the different options for antenatal care in your area
- the midwife will check things including your weight, height and blood pressure
- you may have to give a urine sample or bring one with you
- the midwife will offer to take some blood for tests (see Tests and checks you may have during pregnancy) and you will get information about screening tests for you and your baby
- you may be asked where you want to have your baby, but remember you don’t have to make up your mind now; even if you do, you can change it later
- above all, this appointment is your chance to ask all the questions that you have been thinking about – such as how you feel about the pregnancy as well as the physical changes in your body
- you will get information about the benefits you are entitled to
- you will be given the opportunity to raise any concerns you may have about domestic violence
- let your midwife know if you have had any mental health issues
- Your midwife will give you information about important vaccines offered during pregnancy. For up-to-date information visit the Immunisation Scotland website.
Your maternity notes
Everything that happens during antenatal care is written in your Scottish Women’s Hand Held Maternity Record (SWHMR) or ‘maternity notes’.
You should take them with you to all healthcare and hospital appointments and when labour begins.
Your notes will have information including details of previous pregnancies and the results of any tests you have had.
Some women like to keep a copy of what they want to happen when they give birth (see the Planning for the birth section), with their notes.
Sometimes references in your notes will be abbreviated or have medical jargon you may not understand. If you don’t understand something, or have questions, ask your midwife who will be happy to explain, or you can have a look at our online glossary.