Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it’s important to see your GP or a midwife as soon as possible so you can schedule the appointments you will need during your pregnancy. These are called your antenatal appointments or antenatal care.
Antenatal care is the care you receive from healthcare professionals during your pregnancy.
Why go to antenatal appointments?
These appointments will allow your GP, midwife and other people on your healthcare team to help both you and your baby stay healthy. Even if your pregnancy is going well and you’re feeling well, it’s important for you to attend your appointments so that any potential risks can be identified and prevented, or reduced.
It’s also a great opportunity to ask any questions you have about your pregnancy such as what’s happening during each trimester, physical pregnancy symptoms and the birth itself. You may want to ask questions about caring for your baby after the birth.
You can also get support to help you with your lifestyle, including mental health or dietary advice, or help quitting smoking or drinking alcohol. You can discuss any problems you might be having at home.
Who will I be seeing at my antenatal appointments?
You may want to see your own GP first, before choosing a midwife. It’s up to you.
It can also depend on whether you’re planning to give birth at a public hospital. If so, it’s likely that you will see a doctor or midwife at the hospital.
If you’re planning to give birth at a birth centre, you will probably have your appointments with the midwife at the birth centre.
If you intend to have your baby at a private hospital, your appointments will most likely be with your obstetrician in their rooms.
If you’re planning to have a home birth, your antenatal care will probably be provided by a midwife in your home, the hospital or elsewhere in the community.
What will happen during the appointments?
The antenatal care you get throughout your pregnancy depends on:
- your health and any risks you or your baby may have
- your stage of pregnancy
- any problems you may be experiencing
There will be a number of checks, scans, tests and discussions, such as:
- when the baby is due, what trimester you are in and what this means for you and your baby
- finding out about your medical history, general health and how any previous pregnancies were
- discussing any medication you are taking
- ensuring you’ve had a recent pap test
- making sure your mental health is OK, and supporting you if you have depression or anxiety
- checking your blood pressure and weight and testing your urine
- organising blood tests and screening
- providing advice on healthy eating and lifestyle changes
- feeling and measuring your tummy, and listening to the baby’s heartbeat
- asking you about your home environment, work and what support you have. If you are experiencing family violence, this is a good opportunity for you to discuss it
- checking about any physical symptoms that may be bothering you
- running through your birth plan with you
- talking about if something doesn’t go to plan during the birth
- finding out about antenatal classes
- advice about taking your baby home, feeding them and other care
How many antenatal appointments will I have?
If this is your first pregnancy and you’re not experiencing any problems, it’s likely you’ll have about 8 to 10 appointments. Your GP or midwife will give you an appointment plan during your first antenatal visit.
If this is not your first pregnancy, you’ll probably have 7-9 appointments if you had an uncomplicated pregnancy before.
The number of visits can change depending on whether your pregnancy becomes complicated. If it does, your midwife or doctor may need to increase the number of appointments and you may need more tests and scans. You can also organise to see your doctor or midwife if you have any problems or concerns.
Can my partner come along too?
Yes. It’s a good idea for your birth support partner, family member or friend to come to your appointments with you, particularly when discussing your birth plan and if you want them to support you during the birth.
Antenatal classes, also called birth and parenting classes, help you and your partner to get ready for labour, birth, breastfeeding and caring for a newborn baby. Most people say going to classes helps them feel more confident as the birth approaches.
Antenatal classes will help you and your partner prepare for the birth of your baby.
Antenatal classes teach you about:
- how to prepare for labour
- the signs of labour and when to call the hospital
- the different stages of labour
- different birthing positions
- relaxation and breathing skills to use during labour
- early parenting
- newborn baby behaviour
You will also meet a group of parents who, like you, are expecting a baby. Many parents say talking to other people in a similar situation and sharing experiences is one of the major benefits of antenatal classes.
You can ask questions, get specific information about the place where the baby will be born, and often visit the birthing centre so you know what to expect.
Most birth and parenting courses run for about 12 hours over several weeks and are designed to suit the schedules of busy parents.
Classes often fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to book at around 20 weeks. You should aim to finish the course by the time you are about 36 weeks pregnant, or earlier if you are expecting more than one baby.
How to find an antenatal class
Most maternity services run antenatal classes. There is also a wide range of private classes available. Ask your midwife or doctor what they recommend.
Antenatal classes are often run by a midwife, physiotherapist or lactation consultant, but you can also find private classes run by a doula (a person who offered non-medical support before, during and after birth), yoga practitioner or someone trained in a specific birthing technique.
Types of antenatal class
There are many different sorts of antenatal classes. You might find it helpful to go to more than one type. It is important to check that the person running the class has been properly trained.
Some types of antenatal class include:
- early pregnancy
- lamaze classes (involving breathing techniques, relaxation and support)
- active birth (learning birthing techniques and positions)
- calmbirth (childbirth education program based on understanding of the birth process)
- hypnobirthing (a form of deep meditation and relaxation)
- aqua antenatal classes
- antenatal yoga or pilates
- preparation for breastfeeding
Some antenatal classes are offered online. These can be a good option for parents who cannot go to face-to-face classes. But you won’t have the benefit of meeting other parents.
How much do classes cost?
The cost of antenatal classes varies widely and depends on where you live and who is running the course. Some hospitals provide free classes while others charge as much as $500. Private classes can cost several hundred dollars.
You might be eligible for a medical insurance rebate. Check with your private health care provider.