Antenatal appointments: why they’re important
Antenatal appointments are appointments you have during pregnancy.
Going to your antenatal appointments right from the start means that your doctor or midwife can check how you and your baby are going.
Your doctor or midwife can follow your baby’s growth and monitor you both for any health problems or risks that might develop, including risks to your physical and emotional health. If there’s a problem, it can be picked up and treated early.
At antenatal appointments, you can talk about any concerns or ask questions – for example, about pregnancy, labour, birth and early parenting. And you can get health and lifestyle support – for example, help to quit smoking or control weight.
Antenatal appointments are a chance to look at information about your health and pregnancy with your doctor or midwife and make decisions about your pregnancy care. This might include decisions about screening tests and where you’ll give birth. Some of these appointments and tests need to happen at certain times in pregnancy.
Who you’ll see at antenatal appointments
If you’re planning to give birth at a public hospital, your appointments will probably be with a midwife or doctor at the hospital or in the community.
If you’re planning to give birth at a birth centre, your appointments will probably be with a midwife at the birth centre.
If you’re planning to give birth at a private hospital, your appointments will probably be with your obstetrician at the obstetrician’s consulting rooms. Many private obstetricians employ a midwife in their rooms, whom you’ll see during your pregnancy as well.
If you’re planning a homebirth, your appointments will be with a midwife in your home, at a hospital or in the community.
What will happen at antenatal appointments
Depending on how many weeks pregnant you are, your doctor or midwife might check or talk about your:
- stage of pregnancy and work out when your baby is due
- general health and medical history, including previous pregnancies and births
- emotions, mood and mental health, and screen you for depression and anxiety
- pap test history, and book you in for a pap test very early in pregnancy if you need it
- blood pressure
- weight and urine.
Your doctor or midwife might also:
- measure your tummy and listen to your baby’s heart beat
- recommend blood tests and screening and other diagnostic tests and talk about test results
- talk about healthy eating and foods that aren’t recommended in pregnancy
- ask about your lifestyle and help you get support for lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, or giving up alcohol or other drugs
- ask about your work and home environment and your family situation and support.
Further into your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife might:
- ask you how you’re feeling emotionally and whether you have any concerns about your safety
- ask you about your baby’s movements, check your baby’s growth and position, and listen to your baby’s heart
- talk about labour signs, labour pain, and your preferences for labour and giving birth
- talk about what will happen if there are problems – for example, premature birth
- talk about taking your baby home (if you’re giving birth in a hospital or birth centre)
- ask about your plans for breastfeeding or formula-feeding your baby and give you information about this choice.
If your doctor or midwife doesn’t talk about something you want to know, it’s OK for you to ask questions and get information.
How many antenatal appointments?
Your doctor or midwife will give you a plan of appointments at your first pregnancy visit. This might change as your pregnancy progresses.
If you have a low-risk pregnancy and you find out you’re pregnant within the first six weeks of pregnancy, you’ll probably have around 8-10 appointments with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy if it’s your first baby.
You might have 1-2 appointments fewer than this if you’ve had a previous pregnancy with no complications.
Many women have visits every 4-6 weeks until 28 weeks of pregnancy, then visits every 2-3 weeks until 36 weeks of pregnancy. After this, you’ll probably have weekly or fortnightly visits until birth.
The number and timing of pregnancy appointments could be more or less than this, depending on your health and your baby’s health. For example, if you have a high-risk pregnancy you might have more pregnancy appointments. Your doctor or midwife will talk with you about the appointments you need and why.
Taking a support person to your pregnancy appointments
If possible, it’s a good idea to ask your partner, a friend or a family member to go with you to pregnancy appointments.
Your support person can help you remember information, share the experience with you and provide support.
Your partner or support person might be asked to leave the room for a short time during some of your pregnancy appointments. This is so your health professional can talk one on one with you about how things are going at home.