By the eight or ninth week of your pregnancy, you should have seen your family doctor and registered for antenatal care. If not, then make an appointments as soon as possible. Where you actually receive your antenatal care, and the type of care that you receive, is usually linked with where you ultimate want your baby to be delivered. The first consultation commonly called the booking in appointment is usually held at the maternity unit of your local hospital, where you can discuss your future care. You will be referred here by your family doctor.
It is useful to have an idea of where you would like the baby to be born, and to have discussed this with your partner, before the first antenatal appointment. However, don't worry if you are not sure there is plenty of time to make a decision and you can, of course, change your mind at a lates date.
HOSPITAL BASED CARE
If you have chosen to have your baby in hospital, then you will probably see hospital staff two or three times during your whole pregnancy. Your family doctor or community midwife will undertake the rest of the care. You will probably be seen at the hospital for a booking in appointment at around 10 to 12 weeks, then again at about 34 or 36 weeks and once more when your baby is finally due.
If you prefer all the antenatal visits to be carried out at the hospital where you will have your baby, your family doctor can arrange this for you.
FAMILY DOCTOR OR COMMUNITY CARE
You may be able to have all your antenatal care in your family doctor's surgery or at the community midwife office, particularly if you have decided to have your baby at home and so long as there are no problems with your pregnancy. You should discuss your preferences at the first booking appointment.
The word Domino stands for Domiciliary In/Out. This is a sheme in which a community midwife shares your antenatal care with the hospital and your family doctor, sometimes visiting you at home to do the routine antenatal checks. The midwife will look after you at home take you into hospital, deliver your baby and then arrange for you to return home within 48 hours of the birth.
You may choose to have a midwife be responsible for all your antenatal care and the delivery. In this case, you may not see a doctor during your pregnancy, except for the initial referral and unless the midwife becomes concerrned about the pregnancy.
By around 12 weeks, you will have an appointments at your antenatal clinic probably the first of several. This first visit is intended to ascertain whether or not your pregnancy and delivery are likely yo be normal. Routine checks will be done, including your weight, blood pressure, urine and blood. You may be offered an HIV test. The midwife will examine your abdomen to check the size of our uterus.
You can discuss screening procedures during this visit and are likely to be offered a routine ultrasound scan, usually done around weeks 10 to 12, to check the baby is developing normally. There are other diagnostic test available, such as nuchal fold ultrasound, triple alphafetoprotein (AFP) and amniocentesis. You don't need to decide what tests, if any, you would like to go ahead with straight away: take time to consider the options.
YOUR FIRST ULTRASOUND
You will be asked to drink a pint of water before your appointment so that you have a full bladder for the ultrasound. This causes the uterus to be pushed outwards so that it and the baby can be clearly seen.
You lie down for the scan with your abdomen bared. Your skin is covered with a gel, because soundwaves cannot travel through air. The sensor or probe has to make direct airtgiht contact with your skin. The probe is placed on your abdomen and you will see an almost incomprehensible picture on a screen next to you.
The operator will explain what you can see. You should be able to see the baby moving and you will see its heart beating from the seventh week and hear it from the tenth week. Because the baby is so small, it is not possible to see if it is a boy or girl at this stage.