Antenatal care

Specialty of Obstetrics & gynaecology

What is antenatal care?

Antenatal care or prenatal care is the care a woman receives while pregnant to ensure that both mother and baby are as healthy as possible. It involves regular check-ups with a doctor or midwife, with scans, screenings, and blood tests to check on the development of the baby and identify any health problems in either mother or child that could cause problems. Pregnancies that are considered high risk may require additional tests or more frequent check-ups.

Mothers-to-be are also offered antenatal classes to prepare them for looking after their baby, such as workshops on breastfeeding.

Why is it done?

Antenatal care is carried out because it is important for the wellbeing of the mother and the baby. During pregnancy, a number of complications can occur for the baby and the mother that can be prevented and avoided by monitoring the development of the foetus.

Regular visits with a doctor or midwife is also useful for providing the expecting mother with useful information about pregnancy, labour, and having a baby, along with advice on how to stay healthy while pregnant. Antenatal care may also involve discussing options for when the baby comes, including making a birth plan.

What does antenatal care consist of?

Antenatal care consists of a series of check-ups, which involve a number of tests. Tests that all pregnant women are offered in England include:

  • Two ultrasound scans (one at 8-14 weeks, the other at 18-21 weeks)
  • Blood tests – these screen for HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis, etc.
  • Screening for certain types of anaemia, including sickle cell and thalassaemia
  • Antenatal screening tests for certain conditions, such as Down’s syndrome

Other aspects of the mother’s health, such as blood pressure and weight will be checked regularly, and gynaecological examinations are also performed.

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