Antenatal Care : Overview
Updated: Feb 5, 2021
So you’re pregnant, now what?
When you first learn that you're pregnant, get in touch with a midwife or GP as soon as possible so that you can commence your antenatal care. What is antenatal care?
Antenatal care is the care you receive from healthcare professionals during your pregnancy. You will be offered a series of appointments with a midwife, or sometimes with a doctor who specialises in pregnancy and birth (an obstetrician).
Why is antenatal care important?
Regular appointments with your health care provider throughout your pregnancy are important to ensure the health of you and your baby. In addition to medical care, antenatal care includes education on pregnancy and childbirth, plus counselling and support.
Your midwife or doctor will check that you and your baby are well and provide you with useful information to help you have a healthy pregnancy and answer any questions you may have. You will also be offered antenatal classes, including breastfeeding workshops. You need to book antenatal classes in advance, so ask your midwife about when you should book classes in your area.
To give you the best pregnancy care, your midwife will ask you many questions about your health, your family's health and your preferences. Your midwife will do some checks and tests, some of which will be done throughout your pregnancy. The results of these tests may affect your choices later in pregnancy, so it’s important not to miss them.
Your midwife will also ask about any other social care support you may have or need, such as support from social workers or family liaison officers. Most healthcare providers welcome your partner at each visit, as well as interested family members.
Choosing a antenatal care provider
You will see your antenatal care provider many times before you have your baby. So you want to be assured that the person you choose has a good reputation, listens to, and respects you. You will want to find out if the doctor or midwife can deliver your baby in the place you want to give birth, such as a specific hospital or birthing center. Your provider should also be willing and able to give you the information and support you need to make an informed choice about whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed.
Prenatal care providers include
Obstetricians (OBs), are medical doctors who specialise in the care of pregnant women and in delivering babies. OBs also have special training in surgery so they are also able to do a cesarean delivery. Women who have health problems or are at risk for pregnancy complications should see an obstetrician. Women with the highest risk pregnancies might need special care from a maternal fetal medicine specialist.
Family practice doctors (GP) are medical doctors who provide care for the whole family through all stages of life. This includes care during pregnancy and delivery, and following birth. Most GPs cannot perform cesarean deliveries.
A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) and certified professional midwife (CPM) are trained to provide pregnancy and postpartum care. Midwives can be a good option for healthy women at low risk for problems during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. A CNM is educated in both nursing and midwifery. Most CNMs practice in hospitals and birth centers. A CPM is required to have experience delivering babies in home settings because most CPMs practice in homes and birthing centers. All midwives should have a back-up plan with an obstetrician in case of a problem or emergency.
Ask your primary care doctor, friends, and family members for provider recommendations. When making your choice, consider:
Personality and bedside manner.
The provider's gender and age.
Office location and hours.
Whether you always will be seen by the same provider during office checkups and delivery.
Who covers for the provider when they are unavailable.
Where you want to deliver.
How the provider handles phone consultations and after-hour calls.
When to begin your antenatal care
You can book an appointment with your antenatal care provider as soon as you know that you're pregnant. Your GP can put you in touch with your nearest midwifery service.
It's best to begin your antenatal care as early as possible. If you have special health needs, your midwife, GP or obstetrician may take shared responsibility for your maternity care. This means they will all see you during your pregnancy.
Inform your care provider if you have a disability that gives you special requirements for your antenatal appointments or for labour. If you don't speak English, let your provider know and language arrangements will be made.
How many appointments will I have?