Antenatal Care

Even though you may feel really well, regular check-ups in pregnancy are important. These visits to a midwife or doctor make it easier to treat any problems early, so you’re less likely to have complications with pregnancy and birth. They’re also a good chance to:

  • talk about how and where you’ll have your baby
  • ask questions
  • talk about any concerns you may have

Where do I go for antenatal care?

This depends on:

  • Where you plan to give birth – in a hospital, a birth centre or at home.
  • The services available in your area (ask at the antenatal clinic or maternity unit of your local hospital, your Local Health District or your GP, private obstetrician or privately practising midwife).

Usually maternity services are classified according to the level of care needed and type of service available. Some specialist services may only be available at larger hospitals. Ask your midwife or GP about your local maternity services, so you are aware of the range of services available, in the event that requirements for your care, or your baby’s care, become more complex.

As soon as you’re pregnant or think you are, see your GP or midwife. If you decide to have prenatal screening tests such as screening for Down Syndrome, you need to see your GP or obstetrician by the time you are 10 weeks pregnant so these tests can be coordinated.

We recommend that you book into the hospital as soon as your GP or midwife confirms your pregnancy. Most women who choose to have their babies in a public hospital or birth centre have their first antenatal visit between weeks 10 and 16, but don’t wait until then to book into the hospital or birth centre.

After the first check-up, the number of visits with your midwife or doctor varies – probably every four to six weeks at the beginning of the pregnancy and more often later in the pregnancy. At these visits, the midwife or doctor will:

  • talk with you about your pregnancy and health
  • check your blood pressure
  • check the baby’s growth and wellbeing
  • give you information about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting
  • answer your questions

If you’re worried about anything or have any questions, you can contact your midwife, hospital antenatal clinic, labour ward, birth unit or doctor between visits.

What happens at the first antenatal appointment?

Your midwife or doctor will ask you questions about your health such as any illnesses, medications, operations and other pregnancies and what happened. They will also ask about your family’s medical history.

You might also be asked whether you smoke or use other drugs. This is not to judge you but because the more information your doctor or midwife has, the better they can support you and care for your health and your baby’s health.

It’s up to you whether you answer any of these questions you’re asked – anything you say will be kept in confidence. The information will only be given with your permission to any health worker who needs to know as part of working with you.

You’ll be offered some tests (to check for anything that may cause problems during pregnancy or after the birth). These tests will be discussed with you and you can choose whether you have them or not.
If you haven’t already had a general health checkup, your midwife or GP might recommend:

  • a check to make sure your heart, lungs and blood pressure are okay
  • a urine test, to make sure your kidneys are healthy and check for signs of infection
  • a Pap smear test
  • a breast check

Blood tests

Blood tests are used to check your health in a number of areas:

Anaemia Some women have anaemia in pregnancy. Anaemia makes you tired and less able to cope with any blood loss during labour and birth. It’s most commonly caused by a decrease in your iron levels as your body uses more iron in pregnancy. Your midwife or doctor can tell you if you need iron tablets to prevent or treat anaemia. Your iron levels will be checked throughout your pregnancy.

Blood group and Rhesus (Rh) factor Your blood will be tested to fi nd out your blood group, and to see if it’s Rh positive or Rh negative.

Infections There are a number of infections that can affect pregnancy and the unborn baby. Tests may include:

  • common childhood illnesses e.g. rubella (also called German measles)
  • sexually transmitted infections (STIs) syphilis and hepatitis B
  • bacteria that can normally live in the body but may affect the newborn baby e.g. group B streptococcus
  • infections that can be passed on through blood-toblood contact including sharing needles and other equipment for injecting drugs, e.g. hepatitis C and HIV (virus that leads to AIDS)

Rhesus (Rh) positive or Rhesus (Rh) negative

Most people have a substance in their blood called the Rh factor. Their blood is called Rh positive. On average 17 people out of a 100 people don’t have the Rh factor – so their blood is called Rh negative. If your blood is Rh negative, it isn’t usually a problem, unless your baby happens to be Rh positive. If it is, there’s a risk that your body will produce antibodies against your baby’s blood.

Women with Rh negative blood group will be offered the Anti-D injection twice during the pregnancy (around 28 and 34 weeks) as a precaution.

During pregnancy you will have a blood test to see if you have developed these antibodies. After the birth, blood will be taken from the cord and you will be offered an Anti-D injection to prevent problems in future pregnancies if your baby is Rh positive.

Women who are Rh negative and whose pregnancy ends in miscarriage or termination will be offered Anti-D injection.