What to expect from your first antenatal check-up
So you’ve found out you’re pregnant but you’re not sure exactly where things go from here? Well if you’re choosing to go down the private hospital path then you will need to go and see your GP to get a referral for an obstetrician. An obstetrician is a medical doctor who is qualified in obstetrics; they oversee the health of the mother and baby throughout the pregnancy and, with the help of midwives, will help facilitate your labour and birth.
If you are not sure which obstetrician you would like to see your GP can provide you with a list in your local area. If you have a preference of what hospital you want to give birth in, then you will need to check with them which obstetricians practice with them.
If you want midwifery care, then you are best to check out midwifery group practices within public hospitals. If you are thinking you want a homebirth, then check whether your local public hospital facilitates this.
What to expect at your first visit
1. Your health and history
Your first visit with the midwife or obstetrician will be about them getting to know you, understand your current health as well as your medical history – and that of your partners too (so it is a good idea for them to go with you if they can).
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Questions they might ask:
Have you been pregnant before?
Have the pregnancies been complicated?
Have you miscarried before?
Any prior/current illnesses or major surgeries?
Are you taking any medication?
Do you drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs?
There will also be a multitude of questions relating to your health and wellbeing – including mental health screening.
If your GP didn’t already organise this, then your obstetrician or midwife will book you in for a blood test to check your blood type, iron levels, immunisations and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
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2. The baby
Depending on your obstetrician or midwife, if they have the equipment then you may get your first scan during this visit – which means your first look at the baby, and depending on what week you go this may be the first time you can hear your baby’s heartbeat. From this scan the doctor or midwife can check that the baby has implanted correctly in the uterus and give you an estimate of when the due date might be.
They will then likely still send you for a detailed dating scan which will give a more in-depth look at how the baby is developing and a more accurate date.
They will also provide you with information on what other scans you will have for the duration of the pregnancy as well as other tests you may undertake such as The Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) which is a blood test that screens the baby’s DNA via the mother’s blood stream, providing information on the likelihood of Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), Patau syndrome (trisomy 13). As well as the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) to check for Gestational Diabetes and any other tests specific to you.
During this appointment they will also discuss their plan for ongoing care throughout your pregnancy, usually you can expect to see them every 4 weeks until the third trimester when this will increase to fortnightly and then weekly in the final month until you give birth.
How should you prepare?
Ensure you have your referral ready to go
Go armed with your medical history, your partner’s and your family’s so your doctor or midwife can get the best possible understanding of yours and your baby’s health
Take note of how you have been feeling and report any symptoms such as bleeding or cramping straight away (if this occurs before your appointment is scheduled call them and let them know).
Start thinking about any questions (we’re sure you have loads!) but write a list so you don’t forget anything important when you’re there
If you are going private, ensure your private health cover is up to date (and you have served the applicable waiting periods), the receptionists at most obstetricians are often well versed in how private health care for obstetrics works so they can be a wealth of information and a handy source to ask
Also remember, if you’re going through the private system, to get the receptionist to give you a complete rundown of the fees, any gaps and when payments will be due so there are no surprises.
Dr Christine Catling Follow +
Dr Christine Catling, a midwife for over 25 years, is the Director of Midwifery Studies at UTS. She believes research, innovation and good quality midwifery are pivotal to the well-being of mothers and young families. Christine has extensive experience in antenatal education, policy development and research, and has published on workforce issues, homebirth, vaginal birth...
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