Maternity care and antenatal visits

Patterns of antenatal care vary widely, depending on the area where a person lives, their own preferences and whether they have any special health needs. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE guidance CG62) suggests women should have at least one antenatal visit before 10 weeks and guidance on what to expect is available from their website.

Many people have most or all of their antenatal appointments in the community - in their local surgery or clinic, and sometimes at home. Care may be provided mainly by midwives or shared between midwives, GPs and obstetricians. Many people really valued the relationship with their local midwives and said how friendly, reassuring and supportive they were.

Especially in a first pregnancy, women wanted lots of contact with their midwives. Some people would have liked more contact between appointments but were worried about bothering midwives when they seemed so busy. One woman had problems getting even her regular appointments with the midwife because she was so over-booked. Other people were impressed that midwives gave them so much time. Some women with learning disabilities we talked to felt they were treated differently to other pregnant women and sometimes felt that their midwife did not listen to them or understand them (see Pregnancy and learning disability).

Many women thought midwives were friendlier and had more time to sit and listen than doctors, but some had a less happy relationship, particularly if they felt their midwife was being judgmental.

An important factor was how far women felt empowered by their midwife to understand their care and make their own choices. 

One young mother found some midwives did not give her much information. She preferred one midwife who took time to explain things in a way she could understand. (See also 'Finding information and support').

Seeing the same midwife or small group of midwives every time was very important for some people, and one woman planning a home birth employed an independent midwife, partly to ensure she had continuity of care through to birth as well. 

One mother who is herself a GP had an excellent relationship with her community midwife, but had no continuity at her hospital antenatal appointments. She had not appreciated before how people are affected by what staff say and how they communicate. Others felt less strongly about continuity of care, and accepted that it was often not practical, even if they would have liked it. A few people who were not comfortable with their midwife would have preferred more variety. 

One Muslim mother was worried about what she would do if she had to be seen by a male member of staff, as she would not feel comfortable with this.

Pregnant women with particular needs will be offered more specialised antenatal care. See sections on:

An important part of antenatal care is screening the baby for problems, using scans and blood tests. Healthtalk website has a separate site just on Antenatal screening or see the NHS's booklet 'Screening tests for you and your baby’.

Last reviewed May 2017.
Last updated
May 2017.


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