Your booking (or booking-in) appointment is your 1st official antenatal appointment with a midwife. And, whether you've been waiting for it anxiously for weeks or you've barely got past the shock of seeing your positive pregnancy test, this is often the moment when it hits you: I'm. Actually. Having. A. Baby.
Reality-bites moments aside, you may be feeling totally comfortable about this 1st meeting with your midwife, or you may be feeling nervous and unsure, with LOADS of questions to ask. Or you may be feeling a bit like a fish out of water, wondering how on earth you're going to turn into good enough mum material in just a few months.
Whatever your state of mind, it's worth knowing exactly what the booking-in appointment's all about, and what's going to happen once you get there...
- When will my appointment be?
- What happens – and how long will it last?
- Will I hear my baby's heartbeat?
- What questions will I be asked?
- Should I bring my partner?
- What tests will I have?
- Will I get anything else?
- What happens next?
This depends a little on when you first tell your GP or local maternity services team that you've had a positive pregnancy test result – and you get plugged into the NHS antenatal system. But you should get your appointment at some point between 8 and 12 weeks into your pregnancy (you won't get an appointment earlier than 8 weeks because, sadly, if you're going to miscarry, it's most likely to happen in your first 8 weeks).
The appointment will be to see a midwife and will be held at your local hospital or maternity unit, your GP surgery, a midwife clinic or maybe even at home.
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This 1st appointment is really a 'getting to know you' session. You will have a couple of checks and tests but most of the time will be spent answering loads of questions, as your midwife will want to go through your medical history, and ask you about your health and lifestyle habits
It may last a while: it's wise to allow at least an hour.
Will I hear my baby's heartbeat? Sorry – if you were hoping the midwife would look at your belly or listen for your baby's heartbeat, you're likely to be disappointed: this is all happens in your later appointments and, right now, your baby's heart is so small, its beat is really hard to pick up with the equipment your midwife will have to hand.
Yes, we know. But it's best to know these things before you go, isn't it? Or you'll end up feeling like mickos on our MFM Chat forum: "I was asked loads of health questions and background questions, but that was it. I was hoping for a bit more but nope. It was a bit of an anti climax – not even a touch of the belly."
You'll be asked questions directly relating to pregnancy and birth, such as:
- The date of your last menstrual period. This will help your midwife work out a rough due date.
- Your previous history of pregnancy (including miscarriages, terminations and births). Obviously, this may be difficult to talk about but it's important for your midwife to know so that your antenatal care can be planned appropriately.
- If you have a family history of genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis. If you do, there are screening tests your midwife may want to recommend that you consider.
You'll also be asked questions about:
- Your medical history. You midwife will need to know if you have any physical or mental health problems.
- Your lifestyle, such as whether you smoke or drink alcohol. Some of these questions may feel quite personal, so it's worth being ready for them. Otherwise, you might feel a bit shocked – or burst out laughing like ginger_wookey on our MFM Chat forum: "'Do you use cocaine, cannabis or heroin?' Answer: 'Why yes, we thought it would help the conception.' All right, I know there's a real reason for asking it but with all the rest of the Qs, like 'Are you incontinent?', it all just got a bit too much to not laugh out loud."
Other things you may be asked about include:
- Your job. In case it's the kind of job that might carry a risk to pregnancy.
- Where you want to give birth. Don't worry if you don't have a clue! Your midwife may explain your choices but you don't have to commit yourself to anything yet.
- Antenatal classes. If you're interested, your midwife should be able to give you details of classes in your area.
- Maternity benefits. If you need any info, your midwife should be able to explain how to claim what you're entitled to.
- How you think you'll feed your baby. Your midwife will have plenty of info on breastfeeding, if you'd like to find out more about that.
You should also have the opportunity to ask questions of your own, too, and air any worries you have. It's a good idea to write these down in advance – or, if you're anything like us, your mind will go blank just at the wrong moment!
It's is entirely up to you. You may feel happier with your partner there, and that's fine, but do bear in mind that it's definitely one of the longer, duller antenatal appointments from a partner's point of view – no cute baby images to look at on an ultrasound or anything!
And, as midwife Gail Johnson explains, you need to be sure you're happy for your partner to hear all the info you'll be sharing with your midwife.
"The midwife will ask about previous pregnancies, for example," says Gail, "and you may have had previous ones you don't want your current partner to know about. So, in that situation, you prefer your partner not to be there. It is down to you to do what you want."
Your midwife is very unlikely to give you a physical examination. Instead, you will have:
- A blood pressure check. Midwives routinely monitor blood pressure, as a sudden rise in blood pressure, particularly in the last weeks of pregnancy, can indicate a condition called pre-eclampsia.
- A urine check. You may be asked to bring a sample with you; if not, you'll be given a little pot to wee in. Again, midwives routine check urine, as the presence of protein in a urine sample can indicate potential problems, including diabetes or an urinary tract infection.
- A weight and height check. If your BMI is high or low, you may need extra care during your pregnancy.
You'll also have, either now or at a separate appointment:
- A blood test. This is to find out your blood type and Rhesus status, and test your blood for iron deficiency. Your blood will also be screened for HIV, syphilis, thalassemia and hepatitis B, unless you specifically opt out. Additionally, you will also be asked if you'd like your blood sample to be used as part of the combined screening test for Down's syndrome (and Patau's syndrome and Edwards' syndrome).
You'll probably be given your pregnancy notes (sometimes referred to as your 'handheld notes') to keep – and bring with you to your next antenatal appointments. Depending on where you are in the country, this might come in a colourful branded pregnancy pack or it could just be a standard manilla folder. Either way, keep it nice and safe.
Coming up next is:
- Your 12 week 'dating' scan. Which can actually happen any time between 8 and 14 weeks. This will include, unless you opt not to have it, the nuchal translucency scan that forms part of the combined screening test for Down's syndrome (and Patau's syndrome and Edwards' syndrome).
- Your 16-week midwife appointment.
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