Your Pregnancy Journey
‘Antenatal care’ is the care you receive throughout your pregnancy journey (ante = before, natal = birth). These visits aim to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your growing baby. At your appointments, we will check that you and your baby are well. Problems can be picked up before they become serious, and you will have the chance to ask questions.
You may have between six and ten appointments throughout your pregnancy journey. How many you have will depend on your health the health of your baby. Women with complications may have more appointments, whereas women who are low risk may opt for less. You can expect to discuss aspects of your lifestyle such as diet, exercise, alcohol and drug intake, and smoking. You will be offered routine screening tests for specific conditions.
Around the world, there are a variety of professionals that can provide this care for you. There are also a number of ‘models of care’. A model of care is the format by which your care is provided, and will determine which professionals you have the most contact with. Which model is appropriate for you will depend on where you live, your access to health care, your health, pregnancy risk factors and your personal preference.
Some women like to take along a list of questions so they don’t forget anything. Others like to jot down notes to look at afterwards.
Your first appointment
Your first appointment is usually your longest and one of the most important visits. This is when your care provider will take a thorough medical history from you (and your partner if appropriate). Any blood test you need will be discussed and recommended. Who you see at this visit will depend on which model you choose for your care.
A detailed history is very important, so it may take some time! There’s a lot to get through. Some of the things you can expect at this visit are:
- You’ll be asked about the health of you and your family
- You may discuss options for care
- Your weight, height and blood pressure will be checked
- A sample of your urine may be tested for any underlying urinary tract infections
- Routine blood tests will be discussed and either ordered or taken at this appointment (see Routine Pregnancy Screening)
- You may ask questions about your concerns, how you feel about the pregnancy and the physical changes in your body
- Domestic violence and living situation screening is mandatory in Australia and may be conducted at the first suitable opportunity.
Your Hand-Held Record
Some health services will provide a written record for you to carry with you. All your relevant information about your pregnancy journey is contained within your hand-held record. This is important if you experience any concerns during pregnancy. You may need to attend a hospital where there is no record of your notes (e.g. on holiday). You should also take them with you to all antenatal visits and when your labour begins. If you have a birth plan it is handy to keep a copy of that with your hand-held record.
Sometimes your notes will be abbreviated or contain medical language you may not understand. If you don’t understand something or have questions, please ask your health care provider to explain.
Dr Janelle McAlpine (PhD), Clinical Midwife
Photo by kryzhov, used under licence from Shutterstock.com