What are antenatal classes?
Antenatal classes help you to prepare physically and emotionally
for the birth of your baby. At the classes you can ask questions and
explore the different ways in which you can give birth.
If you are a working mother you are entitled to paid time
off to attend antenatal classes. Antenatal care is
the key to healthy mothers and babies and its very important you
attend your appointments.
When do I start having antenatal
After confirmation of your pregnancy your doctor
will make arrangements for your antenatal care. Most women have their
first and longest antenatal check- up between
weeks 8 and 12 of pregnancy. The earlier you start attending antenatal
check-ups the better. You should then attend antenatal check-ups once
a month until 28 weeks, then twice a month until you are 36 weeks pregnant.
During the last 4 weeks of your pregnancy you should go every week.
The first visit
Your first visit will be the longest, during which
you will be asked many questions. The answers to these questions will
help the doctor or midwife, discover anything that could affect your
pregnancy or your baby.
You may be asked questions on the following:
- The date of your last period so they can estimate when
your baby is due.
- You and your partners medical and family
history. This will include any racial origins. This is in case you
carry the gene for any inherited blood disorders which may affect
- If there is a history of twins in either your
family or your partner's.
- If you have had any previous pregnancies, this
will include miscarriages or abortions.
- If you have any known allergies.
- Whether you are taking any medications for illnesses.
- What serious illnesses or operations you have
had in the past.
- You may also be asked about your backgrounds
- what your jobs are and about your living accommodation. This is
in case there is anything in your circumstances that may affect your
You will have regular checks on your heart and lungs to make sure your general health is good. Your blood
pressure will also be taken at every antenatal visit.
Occasionally your doctor may carry out an internal
examination, enabling them to feel the size of your uterus,
this will help to estimate your stage of pregnancy. During this procedure
you will be asked to lie on your back with your legs bent and your knees
apart. The doctor will place two fingers of one of his/her hands into
your vagina and press your abdomen gently with the other hand. This examination will not hurt and if you
relax it will not even be uncomfortable. Most doctors prefer to use
an ultrasound either at the first or later
Your height is a rough guide to the size of your
pelvis. If you have a small pelvis you can sometimes have a difficult
delivery. If you are over 5ft you are unlikely to have any problems.
You will be weighed on your first visit and then your
weight gain should be checked regularly.
Blood samples will be required in your first visit.
This blood test will check for:
will be asked to give a urine sample on every visit, the urine will
be checked for the following:
- this could be a sign of pregnancy diabetes.
- Protein - this may indicate that
there is an infection that needs treating.
Some clinics/hospitals will weigh you at every
visit and others may not. If you are weighed at every visit, you should
take this into consideration and try to wear similar weight clothes
on each visit. The majority of weight gain will be after week 20 and
this will be about 22 -28 pounds.
Your abdomen will be felt on each visit, to check
the rate at which your baby is growing and the position.
Your blood pressure will be closely monitored throughout
your pregnancy. Towards the end of pregnancy most women tend to suffer
from swollen ankles. This usually happens towards the end of the day,
especially if you have been on your feet for most of the day. If you
notice a lot of swelling in your hands and feet you should consult your
midwife or doctor, as it could be the sign of pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia
is a condition that quite often develops in late pregnancy and is characterised
by a rise in blood pressure and swelling of hands, feet or face. Mild pre-eclampsia is not dangerous,
but needs to be treated as it can progress to more serious conditions.
Severe pre-eclampsia can produce symptoms such as,
severe headaches and abdominal pain. In rare cases women with pre-eclampsia
can develop full blown eclampsia. Eclampsia describes one or more convulsions,
or seizures, occurring during or immediately after pregnancy. If
you have any worries you should consult your doctor who will monitor
your condition very carefully.
If you are over 37 you may be offered some special
tests. If you fall into this category your doctor will discuss these
You will be able to hear your babys heartbeat
after week 14 with a device called a Sonicaid, which enables the beat
to be amplified so that it can be heard.
After week 16 you will
usually have an ultrasound scan, this may however be carried out at
any stage. This process is completely safe and painless. An ultrasound
scan uses sound waves to build up a picture of the baby in the uterus (womb). You and your partner can watch the picture displayed on a small
screen and sometimes you will be given a copy of the picture to keep.
This will usually be the first time you will actually see your baby
moving around and it will make the baby seem real for possibly the first
Around week 16 of pregnancy you may have a blood
test for A.F.P. (Alpha-fetoprotein). A.F.P. is a substance found in
the blood and high levels could indicate that you baby has a neural
tube defect such as spina bifida. If the result is positive further
tests such as an amniocentesis will be carried out. An amniocentesis is used to detect spina bifida
syndrome. This test involves a small (1 in 100) risk of miscarriage and so is not a routine test. You are more likely to be offered this
test if you are over 37 years of age.
Many women sometimes feel bored and frustrated with
the lengthy procedures at the clinic, try taking your partner or a friend
along with you to keep you company. It is very important you attend
antenatal appointments as they will ensure you and your baby receive
all the care and attention needed to maintain a healthy, happy pregnancy.
We offer a test called an the Amniosense test, which looks
for the presence of Amniotic fluid leak during pregnancy. Unexplained
wetness is common late in pregnancy and it is important to know if you
have leaked amniotic fluid, rather than urine.
The AmnioSense product is a simple panty liner that allows
you to continue your daily routine whilst it works to identify whether
you may have leaked any amniotic fluid or not. For more information
on this test click here.
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