Antenatal Care on the NHS

Antenatal care is one of the larger services provided by the NHS for communities in the UK. This article intends to provide you with basic information about how antenatal care works in the UK’s National Health Service, what it offers, and how you can access the service.

Accessing NHS antenatal care

All you have to do to qualify and access the NHS’ antenatal care is to become pregnant, and following a positive pregnancy test, inform either your GP or a midwife of your pregnancy. If you elect to inform you family doctor then he or she will most likely first confirm the pregnancy using tests that are more sensitive, and hence more reliable, than a standard home pregnancy test. Following this your doctor will most likely refer you to your local hospital’s antenatal service, which is usually in the obstetrics unit as ‘obstetrics’ is the specialty concerned with caring for pregnant mothers to be.

Who is responsible for the delivery of NHS antenatal care?

The two professionals most involved in your care will be a midwife and an obstetrician. For most of your standard appointments and tests you are more likely to be in the hands of your midwife, who is a specialist nurse trained in the delivery of antenatal care. It is a misconception that midwives have to be women as many men are now making their way into antenatal care, however if you are uncomfortable with having a male midwife you can request a female one.

Your midwife is likely to be with your after your antenatal care as well, and will be an important part of the support you receive from the NHS during and after childbirth. Midwives generally possess a nursing qualification and will have undergone postgraduate training in midwifery. However some midwives begin their career in support roles prior to participating in an NHS approved degree in midwifery. Regardless of their route into midwifery, these professionals are very well versed in antenatal care, and are supported by obstetricians, the specialist doctors involved in antenatal care.

Obstetrics and gynaecology are the medical specialties that cover every aspect of pregnancy care, both surgical and medical. Doctors in these fields will have achieved their medical degree before working a series of hospital rotations in different departments, and then finally specialising in obstetrics. While most of your antenatal care will be handled directly by your midwife, your obstetrician will be responsible for overseeing your care, and will be involved if anything unusual comes up.

What is involved in antenatal care from the NHS?

If you are having your first child, then antenatal care from the NHS will usually involve a series of ten appointments scheduled along the length of your pregnancy. These appointments will usually involve the provision of information which you will need about your pregnancy, as well as ultrasound and any other necessary tests to establish and keep an eye on the health of your child.

Appointments can be arranged not only at your local hospital, but at your home, GP’s surgery, or local Children’s Centre. This can be particularly useful later on in a pregnancy, when you might not feel up to making your way to a hospital for a routine check up.

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