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 gain weight safely or quit smoking.
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 plan to give birth. Some of these appointments and tests need to happen at certain times in pregnancy.
If you’ve just found out or think that you’re pregnant, see your GP to start your pregnancy care. Your GP will recommend some routine tests, check your health, refer you to a midwife or obstetrician, and help you make a booking for a place of birth.
Who you’ll see at antenatal appointments
If you’re in shared care, some of your appointments will be with your GP. Some will be with a midwife or hospital doctor.
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.
If you’re not confident speaking English, ask for an interpreter – either in person or on the phone. You don’t have to pay to use an interpreter. Also, a multicultural health worker might be able to help you with booking your appointments, filling out forms and getting to your appointments.
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
- medications, including prescription, herbal and over-the-counter medications
- cervical screening test history, and book you in for a screening test very early in pregnancy if you need it
- blood pressure
- weight and how you can achieve healthy weight gain.
Your doctor or midwife might also:
- measure your tummy and listen to your baby’s heart beat
- listen to your heart and lungs
- recommend blood tests, screening tests and other tests and talk about test results
- talk about healthy eating and also 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
- recommend birth or antenatal classes so you can learn about things like labour, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.
Further into your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife might talk to you about or check:
- your emotions, including whether you have any concerns about your safety
- your baby’s movements, growth and position, and heart
- labour signs, labour pain, and your preferences for labour and giving birth
- complications or problems – for example, premature birth
- your plans for taking your baby home (if you’re giving birth in a hospital or birth centre)
- 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.
And if you think of any questions in between appointments, it helps to write them down so you can remember to ask your midwife or doctor at your next visit.
If you’re worried about becoming a parent or there are problems in your relationship, including family violence, it’s a good idea for you to talk about this too. In fact, most public hospital antenatal services ask you about family violence during pregnancy. This is so you can get support if you need it.
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 find out you’re pregnant within the first six weeks of pregnancy and you have a low-risk pregnancy, you’ll probably have around 10-12 appointments with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy if it’s your first baby.
You might have around 7-10 appointments 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.
Some women experience high levels of worry or stress during pregnancy. Seeing your midwife or doctor more frequently can help with managing stress or other concerns during pregnancy. You can ask your midwife or doctor about whether more pregnancy appointments might be good for you.
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 comfort and encouragement.
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.
Some services offer appointments in the evenings or weekends. This might make it easier for you and your support person to go to appointments together. You can ask your health professional if these hours are available.
It’s also OK to go to appointments on your own.