Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Antenatal appointment: What to expect
Your first antenatal visit will take place around the 8th – 12th week of pregnancy. Once you find out you are pregnant, you and your GP will decide which hospital your baby will be born at (if there is a choice) and your doctor will make arrangements for your first antenatal check.
Some checks are done at your doctors, some at the hospital and some at special birthing centres. The first visit takes the longest because your doctor will ask you lots of questions about your health, you and your partners’ family medical history, (twins or inherited illnesses for example) You may also be offered an ultrasound scan to see how far along in the pregnancy you are.
You will be weighed, so that your doctor can check how much weight you put on during pregnancy, and your blood pressure will be taken. This is to check for conditions like pre-eclampsia which usually affect women later in their pregnancies.
Your blood will be tested to determine your blood group and to see if your blood is rhesus positive or negative. Some rhesus negative mothers will need an injection to protect their child from rhesus disease.
Your urine will also be checked for sugar levels, which may indicate gestational diabetes, and for protein, which can indicate pre-eclampsia.
If you are unsure about your dates and are unable to establish when you fell pregnant, it is likely that you will be offered a dating scan to find out your conception date and help you establish your due date.
Scans carried out during the first thirteen weeks of pregnancy are incredibly accurate at establishing this information. If you are very opposed to having an ultrasound scan, you may be offered an internal examination. This can also help to ascertain how pregnant you are. The dating scan is also important if you are planning to have tests for Down's syndrome and/or Spina Bifida, because if these tests are performed at specific weeks of pregnancy they are more accurate.
What questions will I be asked in my booking-in visit?
You will almost certainly be asked which day you started your last period as this is how your due date is determined. If you are unsure of this you may have to have a dating scan (see above information).
You will also be asked about any previous births you have had, or whether you have miscarried, had an abortion or a stillbirth. The midwife will also want to know if you had a vaginal birth or C-section as this has a bearing on how the labour and birth are managed.
The midwife will probably ask you about your health and lifestyle, for example how much alcohol you drink or whether you smoke or take drugs. It is in your interest to answer these questions truthfully so you and your baby's health can be looked after.
Your family history is important at this stage, especially of there is a history of any genetic conditions or twins in the family. Even having allergies can provide the midwife with insight so be sure to mention everything you can think of.
The midwife will also ask you where you want to give birth, for instance, do you want to be in the maternity ward, a birthing centre or perhaps a home birth?
What tests will I have?
A urine test — this test is used to check for pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes and some clinics will require a urine sample at every antenatal check.
A blood test — you will be given a blood test to test for all sorts of conditions including German Measles and Rubella, anaemia and your rhesus status.
A blood pressure check — again this check is to test you for conditions like pre-eclampsia and will probably be performed at every appointment.
An ultrasound scan — this is to check your baby is doing OK, how may babies you are carrying and also your due date.
Listening to the baby's heartbeat — a midwife can hear your baby's heartbeat from about 12 weeks onwards so if you are having an early scan before 12 weeks this check probably wouldn't happen. The midwife will probably use a hand-held doppler to hear your baby's heartbeat.
Tummy examination — You may have a tummy examination at the booking-in visit which will help to discover of you and the baby are growing properly and that your uterus is in the right place.