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Antenatal visits - check-ups during your pregnancy

antenatal; ante; natal; visits; care; midwife; doctor; classes; education; childbirth; child; birth; due; date; record; pregnancy; check; up; checkups;

When you are pregnant, it is important for you to have regular check-ups with a midwife or doctor. These check-ups are called antenatal care or antenatal visits. Antenatal means before birth. A midwife specialises in caring for women during pregnancy, birth and after the birth.

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About antenatal visits

For most women, pregnancy is a straightforward, happy and healthy time. Having regular antenatal check-ups is an important part of staying healthy and making sure your baby is healthy.

Regular checks during your pregnancy can assist in identifying and reducing risks to either you or your baby. Although you may be feeling well, it is still important to go to all your antenatal check-ups.

Antenatal visits also give you a chance to ask any questions and to talk about any issues that you are unsure about, such as aches and pains, the birth, feeding your baby or any other concerns. Before each visit, it is a good idea to think about the things you want to talk about and then write them down so that you don't forget them.

When should you start having antenatal care?

It is a good idea to go to your own doctor (GP) as soon as you think you may be pregnant. At this visit, you and your GP can discuss what type of care you would like to have, and when and where you should have your next visit. Your GP will also be able to arrange for some tests (blood tests, scans) that can be done before your first antenatal visit.

  • Women in South Australia who need their first antenatal appointment in a public metropolitan maternity unit need to call the Pregnancy SA Referral Line on 1300 368 820.
    • You will be allocated to the hospital closest to you.
    • You will be asked to contact the hospital to make an appointment.
    • The first appointment will be around 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The timing of your visits to your midwife or doctor will be arranged on an individual basis after you talk with them.

  • A normal pregnancy lasts 38–42 weeks.
  • After your first antenatal visit (booking visit) you may have your next visit around 19-20 weeks, then every 4 weeks until later in your pregnancy, when visits become more frequent as you get closer to your due date.
  • You may need to have antenatal visits more often if there are any problems with you or your baby.
  • You can also make appointments to see your doctor or midwife at any time during your pregnancy if you are worried about how your pregnancy is progressing.

What happens at your first antenatal visit?

  • At your first antenatal visit you will be asked lots of questions about your health, any other pregnancies, yourself, your partner and your family. This will assist the midwife or doctor to plan your care. 
  • Your midwife or doctor will check your blood pressure, weight and height and you may need to have a Pap smear if you have not had one in the last 2 years. 
  • Other examinations (heart, chest and breasts) may be done if indicated. 
  • In South Australia you will be given a South Australian Pregnancy Record ('Orange Book'), which you should bring to each visit, and you may be asked to fill some of it in yourself.
  • At your first visit, you may also have some blood taken for tests and your urine will be checked as well. To find out more about these tests, please have a look at the topic 'Routine antenatal tests'.
  • You will be asked about possible signs of depression, stresses that you might have and social supports (your family and friends). 

Your medical history

  • Your midwife or doctor will need to know your medical history, including information about illnesses, operations, and allergic reactions to drugs, heart or kidney problems and any other health issues.
  • Your midwife or doctor will ask about any medications you may be taking, including those bought from a pharmacy, health food store or supermarket without prescription.
  • Your midwife or doctor will also record important personal information, including your age, occupation, your partner’s age and occupation, how much alcohol you drink and if you smoke.

Your family’s medical history

  • It is important to provide your midwife or doctor with information about any family medical problems such as diabetes, chronic diseases, genetic disorders or a history of twins.

Your gynaecological and obstetric history

  • The midwife or doctor will want to know
    • how often your periods came,
    • when you had your last period,
    • the types of contraception you have used,
    • about any previous pregnancies, terminations, miscarriages and live births.
  • All of this information is kept private and confidential.
  • If you do not want some information written on the Pregnancy Record that you carry with you, tell the midwife or doctor that you want this kept separately.

Your due date

  • If you have a regular menstrual cycle and you know the date your last period started this can be used to work out when your baby is due.
  • Your due date is known as your EDD (Estimated Date of Delivery) or EDC (Estimated Date of Confinement) and is usually around 40 weeks after the beginning of your last period.
  • If you don't know the date of your last period talk with your GP about having a 'dating scan'.

The South Australian Pregnancy Record

The South Australian Pregnancy Record is an antenatal medical record that you keep and which your doctor or midwife will fill out during your pregnancy.

  • The Record comes in an orange folder and is available to all doctors and midwives in South Australia to issue to women visiting them for antenatal care. The Department of Health provides this for the Government of South Australia.
  • Doctors, midwives and you will write notes in the Pregnancy Record throughout your pregnancy.
  • It is kept by you during your pregnancy and, after the baby is born, it is added to the hospital’s records.
  • By having the Record with you at all times, all your antenatal information and test results are quickly at hand. This is especially important if you have shared care between your family doctor and a hospital, or if you need to be moved to a higher level hospital or need emergency care.

You must take the Pregnancy Record with you every time you see your doctor or midwife. Remember to take it with you when you go to hospital to have your baby. After your baby is born, you can ask the hospital for a copy of the record for you to keep.

For more information about the Pregnancy Record  

What happens at other antenatal visits?

  • At all visits you will have your blood pressure checked.
  • The doctor or midwife will palpate (feel) your abdomen to see how much your baby has grown and listen to your baby’s heartbeat.
  • On some occasions you may be weighed, have blood taken for tests and may have your urine checked.

    Your antenatal visits are a great way to learn about how your baby is growing and what is happening to your body.

There is information about the tests that you may have during pregnancy in the topics 'Routine antenatal tests' and 'Screening tests (checking you baby's health before birth)'.

Antenatal classes

Many women and their partners like to attend antenatal classes to learn more about pregnancy and birth, and about parenting a new baby. These classes are held at each of the major public hospitals where there are antenatal services in South Australia, and at many private hospitals.

At your first visit your midwife or doctor should be able to tell you about how to enrol for these classes, or you could contact the hospital where you are going to give birth.

The classes are very popular so it would be a good idea to book as soon as you can.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.

 

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