Antenatal care is the care and help you receive from health professionals during the course of your pregnancy. It is important you take good care of your own health and that of your unborn baby during pregnancy.
As soon as you find out you are pregnant, you can self-refer to a local hospital to register for your antenatal care.
Appointments for antenatal checks will normally take place both at the GP practice and at the hospital depending on how far along in the pregnancy you are.
St Mary’s Hospital
Our maternity and obstetrics service provides care for women and babies throughout pregnancy, labour, and the postnatal period, usually through about 10 days after birth.
It is important to start your antenatal care early in your pregnancy, as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Use our online self-referral form to quickly refer to our maternity service.
University College Hospital
Antenatal care is the right care you get from health professionals during your pregnancy. You will be offered appointments with a midwife, or sometimes a doctor who specialises in pregnancy and birth. You should start your antenatal care as soon as possible once you know you are pregnant. Women can refer themselves to our service by completing a self-referral form
Your Antenatal Care
Your care is usually shared with the hospital and the practice. Scans and routine antenatal blood tests will be carried out in the hospital. The first scan date varies according to the hospital but is usually around 10-13 weeks. This particular time is chosen to allow optimal imaging and establish dates accurately. Routine antenatal checks are also conducted at different stages of your pregnancy and the hospital will let you know which ones are to be done at Cavendish Health Centre. Please contact reception to book an appointment for this when due, ensuring that you request an antenatal appointment, as this may need to be longer than a normal appointment. Antenatal checks can also be carried out in a hospital setting, usually with a midwife. You may be encouraged to book most of your appointments in the hospital if there are other factors or complications which could increase the risk of the pregnancy. The midwife will also give you a record book of your pregnancy known as the maternity notes or hand-held notes. The maternity notes are kept with you at home and should be brought with you to any future antenatal appointments.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, you will be contacted by our health visitor. Health visitors are qualified nurses with training in child health who can provide advice and support for issues surrounding the health and wellbeing of newborn babies, until they reach school age and also for new mums. The health visitor will also telephone you no later than 2 weeks after the birth to arrange a new baby home visit. At the new baby visit the health visitor will provide you with advice and support about caring for yourself and your baby. Information will also be given on local services, mum’s groups and baby clinics and when and how to arrange future checks and immunisations for you and your baby.
It’s also worth briefly mentioning the importance of eating a healthy and varied diet. We particularly advise taking vitamin D and folic acid supplements. For further advice about this please speak to your GP or midwife.
Vaccinations (Flu, Pertussis and Rubella)
All pregnant women are recommended to receive the flu vaccine irrespective of their stage of pregnancy.
This is because there is good evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk from complications if they contract flu.
In addition, there is evidence that flu during pregnancy may be associated with premature birth and smaller birth size and weight and that flu vaccination may reduce the likelihood of prematurity and smaller infant size at birth associated with influenza infection during pregnancy.
Furthermore, a number of studies show that flu vaccination during pregnancy provides passive immunity against flu to infants in the first few months of life.
This means that babies born after the mum has been immunised are less likely to catch flu themselves in the first few months of their life.
A review of studies on the safety of flu vaccine in pregnancy concluded that inactivated flu vaccine can be safely and effectively administered at any stage of pregnancy and that no study to date has demonstrated an increased risk of either complications for the mum or any risk to the baby following influenza vaccine.
Antenatal and Newborn Screening Timeline
Maternity Exemption Certificate
Completing this form
- entitles you to free prescriptions
- can be used to prove your entitlement to free NHS dental treatment
To apply, you’ll need to speak to your midwife, doctor or health visitor.
An online Digital Maternity Exemption Certificate is available if you have an email address. Please ask your midwife. Unfortunately a the digital service cannot be access by GPs at the time of writing (June 2020).
Join to get free access to gift packs, exclusive weekly offers, pregnancy app, weekly pregnancy developments emails and more.
A weekly guide to your pregnancy – Emma’s diary.
To collect your free Emma’s Diary gift packs click here.
Help and emotional support during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby
Having a baby can be joyful, exciting and rewarding. However, it is also common for pregnant women and new mothers or fathers to experience anxiety, depression or emotional distress.
As many as one in five women experience emotional difficulties during pregnancy and in the first year after their baby’s birth. This can happen to anyone.
Every London borough has an IAPT service which offers free, confidential talking therapy for people who have symptoms of anxiety or depression. IAPT stands for ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapy’. They give priority to pregnant women and new parents. This leaflet explains more about the service and the help we can offer you if you need it.
It is common for pregnant women and new parents to experience:
- Low mood, sadness and tearfulness
- Anxiety, worry and tension
- Irritability and anger
- Difficult or unexpected feelings towards your pregnancy or baby
- Poor sleep even when your baby sleeps well
- Feeling unable to cope or enjoy anything
- Thoughts that you are not a good enough parent
- Worrying thoughts about your baby
- Anxiety about labour or struggling to come to terms with a difficult labour.
Asking for help
It can be difficult to talk about how you are feeling and ask for help. Common reasons for this are:
- You may not know what is wrong
- You may feel ashamed that you are not enjoying your baby or coping as you believe you should
- You may worry that your baby will be taken away.
Struggling emotionally at this time can happen to anyone. It is not your fault.
Asking for help doesn’t mean you can’t cope or are not able to care for your child. It’s the start of getting the right help and support to ensure you can be the parent you want to be. It is very rare for babies to be taken away from parents, so you should not worry about this.
How an IAPT service can help you
IAPT offers short-term talking therapy to give you space to talk. The types of therapy offered will vary depending on your local IAPT service. These may include guided self-help sessions with a therapist, cognitive behaviour therapy, couples therapy and counselling.
How to contact IAPT
You can refer yourself to IAPT by phoning your local service directly (Westminster IAPT). You may find it hard to contact us yourself. In this case, ask your midwife, health visitor, friends or a family member to help you make that first call. Your GP can also make the referral. We know that pregnancy and the first year of your baby’s birth is a very important time. We will offer you an assessment and treatment as soon as possible.
What to expect when you contact IAPT
When you first telephone you will be asked for some brief details. A time will be arranged for you to speak to one of the therapists. This appointment will be booked as soon as possible, usually within a few days. The first appointment is to find out about your current difficulties. This helps us decide how we can best help you.
At the end of the appointment, we will discuss the support options available and agree a plan.
All IAPT services aim to be flexible. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get the help you need. You can often bring your baby to sessions if you want to. Services usually offer you a choice of locations for your appointment, sometimes in antenatal clinics or children’s centres.