Your Pregnancy Journey
Finding out you’re pregnant
See a GP or midwife as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Your pregnancy will be treated confidentially, even if you are under 16. Your GP or midwife will tell you about your choices for antenatal (pregnancy) care in your local area. Being pregnant may affect the treatment of any current illness or condition you may have or go on to develop.
Knowing that you’re pregnant
When you find out you’re pregnant, you may feel happy and excited, or shocked, confused and upset. Everybody is different, and don’t worry if you’re not feeling as happy as you expected. Even if you’ve been trying to get pregnant, your feelings may take you by surprise. .
However you’re feeling, contact an NHS professional (such as a midwife, GP or practice nurse) so that you can start getting antenatal pregnancy care. This is the care that you’ll receive leading up to the birth of your baby.
Telling people that you’re pregnant
You may want to tell your family and friends immediately, or wait a while until you have sorted out how you feel. Many women wait until they have had their first ultrasound scan, when they’re around 12 weeks pregnant, before they tell people.
How do I start my pregnancy care?
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant you can book an appointment with:
- local midwife services
- your GP
Your first midwife appointment
This appointment lasts around an hour.
Your midwife will ask questions to make sure you get the care that’s right for you.
They will ask about:
- where you live and who you live with
- your partner, if you have one
- the baby’s father
- any other pregnancies or children
- smoking, alcohol and drug use
- your physical and mental health, and any issues or treatment you’ve had in the past
- any health issues in your family
- your job, if you have one
When and where will my appointments be?
Your appointments can take place at:
- your home
- a Children’s Centre
- a GP surgery
- a hospital
You’ll usually go to the hospital for your pregnancy scans.
What can I do now for me and my baby?
Focus on these for a safer pregnancy
- Stub it out: If you smoke, now’s the time to quit.
- Say bye bye to booze: Drinking alcohol can harm your baby’s development and avoiding alcohol completely during pregnancy is the only way to be sure baby is safe.
- Take a break: Pregnancy hormones can make you tired and more stressed so it’s important to take time to yourself to relax.
- Keep on moving: Exercise in pregnancy is great for you and your baby but it doesn’t mean you have to join the gym. A daily walk with a friend or the dog can be a great way to stay active in pregnancy.
- Get your vitamins: You don’t need to fork out for pregnancy vitamins but there are a few supplements that are essential in pregnancy.
- Watch out for certain foods: It’s important to have a healthy, balanced diet in pregnancy and to try and avoid foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat. There are also some foods that put your baby at risk and should be avoided all together.
- Be caffeine wise: Caffeine is found in more than just tea and coffee. The advice is not to have more than 200mg caffeine a day.
- Know what medicines are safe: Talk to a health professional before taking any new medication or stopping any current medication.
- Understanding your feelings: on a day to day basis on your journey and knowing where to turn for support.
Ultrasound scans in pregnancy
Ultrasound scans use sound waves to build a picture of the baby in the womb. The scans are painless, have no known side effects on mothers or babies, and can be carried out at any stage of pregnancy.
For many women, ultrasound scans are the highlight of pregnancy. It’s very exciting to “see” your baby in the womb, often moving their hands and legs.
Having a scan in pregnancy is usually a happy event, but be aware that ultrasound scans may detect some serious abnormalities, so try to be prepared for that information.
What will happen at the scan?
Most scans are carried out by specially trained staff called sonographers. The scan is carried out in a dimly lit room so the sonographer is able to get good images of your baby.
First you’ll be asked to lie on a couch. You’ll then be asked to lower your skirt or trousers to your hips and raise your top to your chest.
The sonographer will put ultrasound gel on your tummy and tuck tissue paper around your clothing to protect it from the gel. The gel makes sure there is good contact between the machine and your skin.
The sonographer passes a probe over your skin. It is this probe that sends out ultrasound waves and picks them up when they bounce back.
Having the scan does not hurt, but the sonographer may need to apply slight pressure on your tummy to get the best views of the baby.
When are scans offered?
- at 8 to 14 weeks
- and between 18 and 21 weeks
The first scan is sometimes called the dating scan. The sonographer estimates when your baby is due (the estimated date of delivery, or EDD) based on the baby’s measurements.
The second scan usually takes place between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. This scan checks for structural abnormalities (anomalies) in the baby.
What can an ultrasound scan be used for?
An ultrasound scan can be used to:
- check your baby’s size – at the dating scan, this gives a better idea of how many weeks pregnant you are; your due date, which is originally calculated from the first day of your last period, will be adjusted according to the ultrasound measurements
- check whether you’re having more than one baby
- detect some abnormalities
- show the position of your baby and the placenta – for example, when the placenta is low down in late pregnancy, a caesarean section may be advised
- check that the baby is growing normally – this is particularly important if you’re carrying twins, or you’ve had problems in this pregnancy or a previous pregnancy
Making your birth plan
A birth plan is a record of what you would like to happen during your labour and after the birth. You don’t have to create a birth plan but, if you would like one, your midwife will be able to help.
Discussing a birth plan with your midwife gives you the chance to ask questions and find out more about what happens in labour.
It also gives your midwife the chance to get to know you better, and understand your feelings and priorities, and allows you to think about or discuss some things more fully with your partner, friends and relatives.
Your personal circumstances
Your birth plan is personal to you. It depends on what you want, your medical history, your circumstances and what is available at your maternity service.
You might be given a special form for your birth plan, or there may be room in your notes.
The maternity team who care for you during labour will discuss it with you so they know what you want.
You need to be flexible and prepared to do things differently from your birth plan if complications arise with you or your baby, or if facilities such as a birth pool aren’t available.
The maternity team will tell you what they advise in your particular circumstances. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need to.
Things to consider
You can find out more about the things you need to think about when making a birth plan, such as:
- where you can give birth
- pain relief
- forceps or ventouse (intervention or instrumental delivery)
- caesarean section
- your baby after the birth
You and your partner can also think about what your birth partner can do to support you during labour.
When to go to the hospital or birth centre
If it’s your first pregnancy, you may feel unsure about when you should go into hospital or a midwifery unit. The best thing to do is to call your hospital or unit for advice.
If your waters have broken, you’ll probably be asked to go in to be checked.
If it’s your first baby and you’re having contractions but your waters have not broken, you may be advised to wait. You’ll probably be asked to come in when your contractions are:
- about 5 minutes apart
- lasting at least 60 seconds
Don’t forget to phone the hospital or unit before leaving home, and remember to take your notes.
If you’re planning a home birth, follow the procedure you have agreed with your midwife during your discussions about the onset of labour.
What to expect at the maternity unit
Maternity units vary, whether they are in hospitals or midwifery units, so the following is just a guide to what is likely to happen.
You can talk with your midwife about what’s available at your local hospital or midwifery unit, and what you would like for your birth.
If you carry your own notes, take them to the maternity unit admissions desk. You will be taken to the labour ward or your room, where you can change into a hospital gown or other clothes of your own.
Examination by the midwife
The midwife will ask you about what has been happening so far and will examine you, with your permission. If you’re having a home birth, this examination will take place at home. The midwife will ask to:
- take your pulse, temperature and blood pressure, and check your urine
- feel your abdomen to check the baby’s position, and record or listen to your baby’s heart
- probably do an internal examination to find out how much your cervix has opened, so they can then tell how far your labour has progressed.
These checks will be repeated at intervals throughout your labour. Always ask about anything you want to know.
Delivery rooms have become more homely in recent years. Most have easy chairs, bean bags and mats, so you can move about in labour and change position. Some have baths, showers or birthing pools. You should feel comfortable in the room where you are giving birth.