The first antenatal visit
Most pregnancies are perfectly normal, but it's vital to have antenatal checks to make sure all is well and to spot possible problems early before any harm is done. You'll have consultations, check-ups, and tests throughout your pregnancy to make sure you and your baby are doing fine.
The antenatal clinic
Your antenatal check-ups may be at your doctor's surgery, the local health centre, or the hospital. You'll probably have a “booking-in” appointment at between eight to 12 weeks, and you can expect about ten further visits if it's your first pregnancy and about seven if it's not. The exact number and timing of antenatal checks varies from area to area. If you have any complications, such as a multiple birth, a medical condition you had before you became pregnant, or you're at risk for some other reason, you'll have checks more frequently.
Most antenatal care is now handled in the community, so appointments are much less stressful than when most women had to go to hospital clinics. There's a more relaxed atmosphere, and if you do need to go to a hospital clinic, you'll probably find it less crowded than it used to be. There'll be times, though, when you have to wait around, especially if you're having an ultrasound scan or a blood test. Take something to read or to do while you're there, and have some food and a drink with you in case you have a long wait but don't want to risk going to the café and missing your appointment. Ask your partner to go with you if he can. If you have other children, it's best to ask someone to look after them if possible, rather than take them with you.
The clinic can be a good place to start making friends with other expectant mothers, so chat to whoever's there.
Talking to your carers during antenatal visit
Midwives at a hospital-based antenatal clinic may find it hard to find time to talk to you as much as you'd like. Community clinics should be more relaxed and you'll be able to find out what alternatives are open to you, talk about your preferences, and get reassurance about any worries and fears. If you feel that you're being hurried through your appointment, ask your midwife for some more time. Don't let yourself be browbeaten, but do bear in mind that many women feel very emotional and weepy when pregnant, so you may cry much more readily than usual in any stressful situation. If you have strong preferences but worry that you won't be able to stand up for yourself, take your partner along for moral support. It'll help to make a list of points you want to talk about beforehand and rehearse them together.
Your first visit
- your personal details and circumstances
- childhood illnesses or any serious illnesses you've had
- illnesses that run in your family, or in your partner's family
- if there are twins in your family
- your menstrual history - when your periods started, how long an average cycle is, how many days you bleed, and the date of your last period
- what symptoms of pregnancy you have, and your general health
- details of previous births, pregnancies, or problems in conceiving
- if you take a prescription medicine or suffer from any allergies.
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