I am currently pregnant expecting twins in May and I have a 14 month old little boy. When I carried my boy in my first pregnancy I did try to eat healthily and look after myself , but as the months went by and I got more tired I must admit that I did let it slip a bit. I went to only a few of the antenatal classes that were available, and didn't really get that into it all to be honest. As soon as I found out that I am expecting twins , something changed and I had a sudden panic to eat the healthiest food, and keep fit and to really look after myself. Even though I have had a child not that long ago, I intend this time to attend all the antenatal classes and I have gone a bit mad with buying books on twins. You can never be too prepared. I had no idea that there was so much antenatal care out there for parents to be. I would recommend attending these classes to anyone, they are definately useful and I wish I had done it properly first time around.
When you become pregnant you have a range of options open to you for antenatal care.
In my opinion there are three aspects to antenatal care
1. Hospital / Midwife checks and scans
2. Antenatal classes for you and your partner
3. Other groups such as Aqua natal or Antenatal Yoga
Hospital / Midwife checks and scans
Once you have been to you GP and told them you are pregnant (mine just took my word for it) they will refer you up to the hospital and in our area to the community midwife service.
The first contact you get in our area should be a home visit from the midwife just before you r scan. They call this you booking session. I missed mine because I was on holiday so I had it at the hospital. Here they will discuss healthy eating, weigh and measure you, check blood pressure, discuss birth options and talk about the tests you can have. They will also take samples of your blood to check your rubella immunity (rubella is dangerous to baby if you get it while pregnant) and your rhesus status (if you are Rhesus negative you will need injections to prevent you damaging the baby or yourself if baby is rhesus positive). They will also check your urine for glucose.
You will be called for a 12 week ultrasound. This scan is really just to check baby is alive and well. They will measure baby and give an estimated due date (EDD) based on the measurements and your last period date. They will give you a little photo of baby to take home (some hospitals charge). At this scan it is lovely to have your partner with you. I will never forget seeing the little moving person inside me. It was all the more moving as I had a friend who found out her baby had died inside her at that scan.
The next option is to have a blood test at 16 weeks which is called a triple test which calculated for the risk of Down syndrome. I didn't have it. I decided that even if it came back that I had a risk factor for Down's I wouldn't have the Amniocentesis as that runs the risk of miscarriage.
Then there is no contact until you go for your second scan at 20-24 weeks. This is the one where they look for major abnormities and they can tell you the sex of the baby but only if you ask.
After that I just had monthly appointment with the community mid wives that went to every fortnight nearer to my due date then in the last 3 weeks every week. They measure you bump to check baby is growing, check blood pressure and urine. They'll answer any questions you have about your care.
Antenatal classes for you and your partner
There is a range out there from free to fee paying. Some people opt for National childbirth trust classes (NCT) with a group of other people. These are more detailed, held in someone's home and you have to pay. I didn't do these.
We opted for the free ones at our local hospital. There were two sessions for mum and partner about birth and labour. I also attend one about breast feeding and another about caring for a new baby. I didn't attend one by the physio's about exercise for pregnancy. Overall I found the classes ok and useful for first time parents. They were run by midwives who were quite matter of fact. Some people may just choose to read up but it's good to meet other people.
Other groups such as Aqua natal or Antenatal Yoga
Obviously aimed for mums. I went weekly to both classes. Aqua natal from 26 weeks and yoga form about 30 weeks. The aqua natal was a really good social event as well as helping you to keep fit and active. I'm still in touch with people I met and now our babies play together. The yoga was really good for relaxation and tips for helping with pain management in labour.
All in all you can have the very basic level of care or you can choose to go to classes. You'll get out what you put in. Everyone is different so choose what is best for you.
Usually most places offer antenatal classes over so many evenings, but my areas had a new one day class to offer, so we went along to that one. It meant hubby could come along as it was on a Saturday and it was at the hospital.
I was due 10th Feb 2008 and I had the class the 2nd week in January. It was from 10-4 with a lunch hour.
I must admit I was feeling a little nervous about it as you see and hear of some antenatal classes that seem to make some parents quite embarrassed and uncomfortable. I had also heard the NHS classes were a waste of time going. At the same time I was also looking forward to it.
But hey it was free, and this was the first time for us being parents, so we went along.
We got there and the room had a semi circle of chairs, we were one of the first to arrive, and as couples started to arrive, everyone kept themselves to themselves.
Once the class started the midwife introduced herself, and got us to introduce ourselves, I thought great, I have to stand up and say, 'my name is Emma and....', it was that bad at all though. She asked us to say our names, our due date and where we met our partners - that was it, and we didn't have to stand.
Then she went through the day's events: Childbirth, pain relief, breastfeeding, caring for a baby, massage techniques, and general bits to do with our pregnancies.
To get us all to feel at ease, she split the groups, female and males, and we started with an image of the female body, and we had to name certain parts of the body (to do with pregnancy), and on the outside put down how a woman feels during pregnancy. You can probably guess, the women did it properly, the men had a huge laugh about it, pointing out we were all hormonal moaning whatevers. It was funny and really got us all at ease, so we were all now chatting to each other.
She then showed us some graphic images of childbirth and talked us through the process, this was what I was there for.
I wasn't really worried about childbirth in the first place, but this really helped me understand the process and what to expect. She basically told us about trying to stay calm, and while a lot laughed it off, I knew what she was saying. She said breathing is the key on your contractions, and if you stay calm, your body won't have an adrenaline rush which will mean the baby will get plenty of oxygen which in turn will keep baby happy, and mummy happy. It was hard to grasp it while there, but I took her points on board.
We then moved onto pain relief, and again were split into groups, and all had a different pain relief to talk about and what we knew about it, advantages and disadvantages. I already knew I wanted to go through labour on gas and air anyway, but this opened my mind, that if you need something else, use it, and I had then decided after we had all discussed it as one group with the midwife which pain relief I would want, if needed.
The breastfeeding topic was useful, a lot of people got up to leave as they weren't interested - fair enough, but they weren't even going to give it a go. This part of the class made me more determined to try it than ever.
We covered other topics like what to pack in the hospital bag etc too, which was useful from a midwifes point of view.
We also covered what would happen if you go overdue etc.
I left the hospital feeling ready for the birth and feeling really excited about things. Nobody exchanged numbers which was a shame, but it turned out I didn't need to.
About 3 weeks later, close to my due date we were shopping, and we bumped into a couple who were due about 4 weeks behind me. We had a good chat and a laugh about me eating pineapple etc to go into labour, but that was it, no exchange of numbers.
When I finally went into labour on Thurs 21st Feb, I remembered everything the midwife had said, I stayed at home as long as poss, till just after 1pm to be precise, and I had my little girl at 4.07pm with just gas and air, so the class definitely benefited me.
Leaving the hospital the next day someone said hi to us, so we said hi back not paying much attention, and thought it must have been someone's partner from antenatal class.
When my baby was 6 weeks I was invited to a 6 week course for first time parents. I made some good friends there and when it finished we decided to all meet up every other Thurs for a coffee, and it was only while there 3 of us realised we all went to the same antenatal class, and one of the babies was born the same day as mine, crazy! We meet up all the time now which is nice.
While out having coffee with the mummies, we all went our separate ways and I bumped into the lady who was due 4 weeks after me, she had her little boy the day before me! And it was her hubby that said hi to us in the hospital - we now meet up on a regular basis too.
So it was so worth me going, because not only did I have a smooth and easy labour, I have lots of friends too
Antenatal care, is offered to every expectant mother, depending on weather they want to take the care offered my midwifes, doctors, and health visitors is up to the individual person.
Antenatal care monitors your's health during pregnancy, as well as the health and development of your unborn child. There are many tests and procedures which are carried out to help detect problems that might occur, during your pregnancy, when giving birth and even long term effects.
When you first find out that you are pregnant, it is natural to go and see your GP, who will then update your records and inform the local team of midwifes that you are pregnant,he will do a few quick checks, like measure your blood pressure, your weight, and fill in with you a booklet that you will keep for the rest of your pregnancy, 'this is basically your lifeline' and you will need it when you go for scans, midwife, and doctor appointments. He will then ask if you have any questions etc and try to assist you as much as he/she can.
Once the midwifes have been informed, they will contact you either by letter or phone and make a appointment to 'book' you in to the clinic, this normally happens around 8-12 weeks, and they will either visit you at home or ask you to come into the surgery. You'll be asked a number of questions about your health, family history and any previous pregnancies. The aim is to get a basic picture of your health and your pregnancy so far. She will then advise on your your diet, whether you smoke/drink/take drugs, and warn you about the different foods that are unsafe to eat during pregnancy like, soft cheeses, pate, eggs, peanuts, etc. She will then take a full blood count to test for various things like...
* Your blood group
* Sickle/ thalassaemia check
She will then ask for a urine sample to check for things like protein, urine infections etc.When she has finished everything she will then pass your details on to your local/ chosen hospital that you want to give birth in, and book you in for a scan, this is a 'dating scan' to see how far along in your pregnancy you are and to give you a final due date, they will also check how many babies there are, and check for heartbeats etc.
Antenatal care is different for all women depending on the area you live, different hospitals, and midwife units, and some area's see you at different stages of your pregnancy. Unless there is any problems you will normally be seen every four weeks by your midwife up until you are 31 weeks , and then every two weeks up until your due date.
Women with complicated pregnancies are asked to be seen a bit more often to keep a close eye with the problem in hand, they are normally seen every two weeks up until 36 weeks and then every week until your due date.But as mentioned this can vary in different area's.Women with complicated pregnancies include things like
* Cardiac, Renal or Endocrine disease
* Severe asthma
* Drug use, such as heroin, cocaine,and ecstasy
* HIV OR HBV Infected
* Obesity ( BMI 35 or more) underweight ( BMI less than 18)
* Women over 40
* Women who have experienced miscarriage or a mid term loss
* Still birth, or neonatal death
* Had babies that have been severely premature
* Had severe pre-eclampsia in previous pregnancies.
Every time you are seen by your midwife/ doctor they will perform a variety of different checks for you and your baby, these include.
* Blood pressure
* Palpation - feeling your tummy
* Listening to your baby's heart - this can be done with a stethoscope, a Pinard (looks like an ear trumpet) or a Doppler, which uses ultrasound
* Ask questions about your baby's movements
* Urine tests- to check for infections
* Checking for any swelling in your legs, arms or face
* Questions about how you feel
* And ask if you have any questions or if you are unsure of anything.
Other tests which are not routine, but are offered include-
A.F.P. (Alpha-fetoprotein). A.F.P. is a substance found in the blood and high levels could indicate that you baby has a neutral tube defect such as spina bifida.This test is normally carried out around 16 weeks. If the result is positive further tests such as an amniocentesis will be carried out. An amniocentesis is used to detect spina bifida and downs syndrome. This test involves a small (1 in 100) risk of miscarriage and so is not a routine test. You are more likely to be offered this test if you are over 37 years of age.
I chose to take the antenatal care that was offered to me, because i felt it was important to make sure that the health and wellbeing of myself and my baby, were monitored, having being pregnant twice, and im now currently pregnant i have had my fair share of problems, as i have tested positive for GBS( strepococcus group b, which is one of the most common bacterial infections , which exists harmlessly in your vagina and bowel, and can cause blood poisoning (septicemia), infection of the lung (pneumonia) or infection of the lining of the brain (meningitis), and each of these can be life threatening. Sadly, even with the best medical care, 1 out of every 10 babies diagnosed with early-onset GBS infection will die (approximately 44 babies a year). Unfortunately GBS is not routinely tested for therefore not all women know they have it, those who do however are given the correct treatment, and will be put on a IV drip when in labor.
Midwifes, doctors, and health visitors do a wonderful job to ensure that our pregnancies run smoothly, and should be praised for there hard work.
I wanted to try and get on the NCT antenatal classes as I had heard from friends that it was a small group of mums and dad to be with kids due around similar times living in similar areas. Sadly, I couldn't get onto one of these courses but I saved myself £100 by going to the hospital run classes. Instead of there being 8 like they have at the NCT classes, there were 3. The first session was on labour, the second was on excercising before & after (pelvic floor exercises etc), and the final session focussed on breast feeding. I attended these classes 8 weeks before my due date and each session lasted approx 2 hours. You are legally allowed time off work to attend these.
The first session put my mind at ease about the labour. It pointed out the signs suggesting you might be in labour, the drugs available with the advantages /disadvantages, things to try in labour (using a birthing ball / tens machine) and much more and what I liked most was that you could ask questions and speak to someone who knew what they were talking about. I came out of the first session knowing I wanted my husband with me and an epidural, I was going to try a birthing ball and take a bath. Instead of feeling nervous I was geting excited.
The second session was on the excercises before and after. I have to say I found this session so boring. The only thing I can remember from it was that you should do pelvic floor exercises before and after.
The 3rd session on breastfeeding was unfortunately a waste of time for me as I couldn't breastfeed. They had dolls and got you to practise trying to get them to latch on etc. How can you get a doll to latch on? I can't help feeling that that session was more of an insight and you would need to be shown how to breastfeed when the baby was born on a one-to-one basis. Nevertheless, I'm sure people got a lot out of it.
The classes were interesting especially the labour one. You have to rememer they can't cover everything but it is wise to attend them if only to put your mind at ease and take the nerves away.
I am pregnant. I am undoubtedlyand completely about as pregnant as you can get at the 16 week stage. I'm shell shocked, living in a house share, and have no clue about anything to do with babies. This wasn't a planned pregnancy, as you may have gathered. I'm really not sure what I'm doing at the moment and am quite frankly a bit worried about the whole thing. So far my antenatal care consists of two midwife appointments (one at 9 weeks and another to happen at 18 weeks) and one scan (around 15 weeks). I'm reading lots of books, which helps, but I can't help thinking that the whole thing would be a lot more comprehensible and a lot less scary if antenatal classes started much earlier in pregnancy.
Yep, ok, I know that its a normal natural thing to undertake at some point in your life, and hey, I am now 29 so it's probably about time I did sort out my biological urges. It would be nice though if there were any kind of support group (yep I know that's probably the wrong term for it as pregnancy is meant to be a happy and fulfilling experience), but some form of support out there where you could gather with other shell shocked newly pregnants in groups with lots of fizzy orange (my current craving) and talk about the pros and cons of pelvic floor exercies, how your other half is coping with things, and just generally reassure each other that everything you are currently semi psychotically (I do mean that - I'm more irritable now than I was when I was a teen, and that was pretty bad) thinking and feeling is perfectly normal.
You see, pregnancy, for those of you who don't know, is a bit like being possessed by this semi-benevolent entity, who will take over your body and brain - you eat stuff you wouldn't have looked twice at a few months ago and can't face stuff that you previously thought was really good food, your brain turns to goo and you can't carry out more than simple instructions, but you suddenly get really good at homey things like mortgages, joint bank accounts, interest rates and putting up wall paper. And I've also started making my own Christmas decorations.
The care I've received so far has been very good. I do feel medically pressent and accounted for. My urine has been exhaustively tested (that's quite apart from the five tests I originally took when I first found out I was pregnant, just to be absolutely sure) for proteins and sugars, my blood has been tested for any evil diseases which could hurt my foetus, and I've been instructed in the use of folic acid. Personally, emotionally though, a little more reasurrance would have been nice. Pregnant people aren't logical, even though I've ben checked for everything nasty and cleared, I'm still more than capable of worrying. Antenatal classes, which teach you how to give birth (yep I need lessons in that even if there are lots of people who just get on with it!), and babycare after the birth are still a long way off, around the 26th week to be precise. It would just be nice to be able to feel like I know what I'm doing before then. Ten weeks seems to be a very long time!
This is who to join if you're not happy with your antenatal care. My theory is if you don't ask you don't get! My NHS trust refuse to sex the baby at the fetal abnormality scan although many other trusts allow this. I was not bothered about what sex my baby was but I felt it was unfair that if I lived 3 miles down the road I would be told. I feel it's my baby, my body I have the right to choose to know IF the sonographer noticed. Obviously they are not 100% but if they explain this to any parent that asks then I am sure they'll understand they may not be right. Anyway I discussed this with the relevant people and had the policy changed! Then near the end of my pregnancy I found out that I couldn't have the waterbirth I had hoped to have as the midwives were not trained to deliver in water at the pool in the hospital! It was all down to money. I was transferred to a different hospital where they did have trained staff (but my labour was so quick I didn't make the pool anyway!) and 2 weeks later they managed to get a midwife trained up in my area. Inequalities in services available in certain areas bugs me (like availabilty of nuchal scans), postcode care I believe it is called. Anyway MSLC stands for Maternity Services Liason Committee which consists of consultants, midwives, NCT teachers and laymembers, like me! If you want something changed then join this, they have to listen! AIMS are very good for helping you voice your concerns too www.aims.org.uk
What you get offered in the way of antenatal classes will probably vary from area to area, like most other things, but you should get something in this vein. Ante natal classes seem to happen on average at around the 7 month mark, give or take. You will be invited to them through your doctor, or midwife, or whoever is in charge of your pregnancy care. You should be offered a choice of times - they tend to be evenings and weekends, partners are encouraged to attend. The classes will almost certainly take place at your local hopsital, and be run by a midwife working in the hospital. The classes will cover some key area and prepair you for the birth. Contrary to expectation, you are unlikely to spend that much time squatting and panting, and a good deal more time listening. The classes run round here happen over four weeks, about two hours apiece. The info below is about what ante natal support I've had, but I expect it will be fairly typical. The first one was a general introduction, a chance to talk about any specific concerns, to raise issues of pain relief. We largely talked about coping up to the birth and when to come in, and about support available, and what symptoms would indicate that you need help. Session two was in many ways the most valuable, as it included a guided tour of the maternity wards with a look at the special care baby unit and the like. I found this very reassuring, even though I'm not intending to give birth in hopsital. If you do mean to go in, its nice to know where everything is and to have some sense of what will happen to you on arrival - it should make the process a good deal less scary on the day. Session three deals with breast feeding and baby care - clearly there is only so much you can do without a baby of your own, but it can help to have some theory. (Apparently you can expect a lot more help and support once the baby has arrived.)Some groups will get in new mothers to demons
trate thnigs like how to hold a baby, how to change it and how to breast feed - again it'll give you some idea, but clearly its going to be entirely different when you have one of your own to deal with. Session four looks again at pain relief, relaxation and that sort of thing. It also deals with some of the things that can go wrong. depressing in some ways, but forewarned is forearmed. The classes are very helpful for putting together a birth plan and for getting some sense of what to expect. It is reassuring to see other people as huge as you are, to find out just how normal you are and how typical your fears are. I think I got more out of it from the 'feeling normal' perspective than in any other way. Apart from the four classes, my local hopsital runs breastfeeding workshops (women only) and relaxation sessions so if you find you want more contact and support during your last months, there's a good deal available. The hospital also provides (in the form of posters and leafletts) information about other places and societies that might help, so its a good source of information. However alarming the prospect of classes may first seem, they are reassuring, and well worth attending (even if you don't intend on going into hospital.)Do go as a couple, there's a lot for both parties to take in and there is a lot of information about what the bloke should be doing during labour and the like.
I am four months pregnant with my third child. Just getting over the throwing up stage, I am now in the "varicose vein stage". After two pregnancies my veins are in a bad state of repair. It makes things worse that I suffer my DVT and have to inject fragmin into myself. However, there is one thing every new mum to be can do to help reduce problems with the veins in their legs - support tights. yes, they are unsightley, yes they look odd and very unsexy, but they work. I wish I had listened to my doctor when I was first prescribed these tights as I put them to oneside and never worn them. Now I regrett it as my veins will have to be stripped after my baby is born. I have a blood problem which makes me suffer from all sorts with my veins, but wearing tights could have helped. Whilst in hsopital with DVT with my first child, I had to wear ted stockings for the two weeks I was in the ward, then again afterwards until my son was born. I hated these, they were awful. However, Scholl make a stocking called ultima which your gp can prescribe. These dont look too bad and if they are going to save you from varicose veins, then please insist on them. Its too late for me, i will have to go through surgery, but if any of you new mums to be have vein free legs, then prevention is a lot better than cure.
As a first time mother/father to be you have a thousand one things that you want learn & ask questions about. You also find that you need general support & guidance on so many issues. You can sometimes feel a little isolated too and feel like you are the only couple going through this life changing experience. I have found that attending NCT antenatal classes has provided me with a place to explore all the above and more. You can get antenatal classes free. Generally, you are offered NHS antenatal classes via your midwife/antenatal clinic. They are run at various times such as evenings/weekends and in some cases during the day. It is my experience that they run from about the 34th week of pregnancy for about 4-6 weeks. The classes are usually quite busy & intensive. You can find that there is so much information packed into a short space that there isn’t enough time to discuss specific questions that you may have. Some people prefer this type of approach. However I wanted to opt for antenatal classes that provided myself and my partner with the opportunity to explore how we felt emotionally about many aspects of pregnancy, birth & childcare. I felt I needed to be participating in a group rather than purely provided with masses of information, after all I can get that from books. Another aspect of antenatal classes that I felt was important was for myself and my partner to meet other couples in the same situation. NCT is a charity offering support, information and guidance during pregnancy, birth & childcare. ‘The Trust aims to help all parents enjoy to an experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood which enriches their lives and gives them confidence in being a parent.’ You can become a member of NCT for £36 per year. However you do not need to be a member attend their antenatal classes. The NCT classes usually consist of small groups of people who are expecting their babies around the same time. The cla
sses provide you with practical information & also give you the chance to talk through your feelings about labour, birth and childcare. The classes that I attended were run by a trained antenatal teacher (who was formerly a nurse). The classes were held in a hall and ran for nine weeks. As a group we also had the opportunity to shape the content as well as the timing of the sessions. As some of the couples attending were more pregnant than others we as a group opted to have more than one session in certain weeks. As you can see this is quite a flexible approach. On top of this, if you missed a session or wanted further support the antenatal teacher would come to your own home to work with you on a one 2 one basis. The topics covered were wide ranging & included the following: Different Stages of labour & birth itself Exercises In Pregnancy, relaxation & breathing Pain relief options (Natural & medical) Assisted Labour (caesarean/forceps/ventouse) Being a supportive birth partner Active birth – Good position for labour etc Emotional aspects of pregnancy, birth and becoming a parent Breastfeeding The above is only a brief overview of some of the areas covered. At each session there was always the opportunity to ask questions, discuss hopes and fears etc. The antenatal teacher also provided the group with lots of books, video’s and leaflets on every subject you can imagine. These were available on a free loan basis. Another aspect that I found really good was that new parents and their babies were invited along to some sessions. We were able to ask questions and were provided with honest and sometimes very frank answers! At the sessions where parentcraft was discussed the parents & babies also attended and we were able to watch while they were bathed & had their nappies changed, were fed etc. As part of the course we also
attended the local hospital for a ward tour, as with all aspects of the course if you felt that you did not want to attend for any reason you were able to ‘opt-out’ with no questions asked. The most striking feature of these courses I felt was the honesty & general openness of the tutor. I had heard some negative stories about NCT classes and was initially a little wary. I had heard that they can aggressively promote such things as natural childbirth & breastfeeding. I have not found this to be the case at all. Before the classes started I had already decided that breastfeeding was not going to be the right option for me or my family. I was a little worried about what response I would receive regarding this. I also felt that I could not rule out any form of pain relief during labour because I have no idea what it is going to feel like and I want to keep my options open. I found that the tutor provided honest, objective and informative information on pain relief. Highlighting both the positive & negatives of each and demonstrating that any form of pain relief comes as a ‘package’. It was also clearly demonstrated and explained how any choices you make can effect what choices you can make later on. One father to be asked directly ‘So what pain relief would you recommend’ in answer to that the tutor explained that she couldn’t recommend any one because all births are unique & so is every woman and that it would be wrong to offer a subjective opinion. As for breastfeeding, the information provided was very useful and provided an open & honest forum to discuss feeding in general. The group were allowed to explore their feelings towards breastfeeding both negative & positive. The whole emphasis of the course on topics such as the above was to provide you with information to make an informed choice. It also provided you with a confidential environment to discuss anything and everything. The lengt
h of the whole course provided you with ample time to have all your question answered. The opportunity to meet people in the same situation as yourself was very useful. As a couple I also found you gained from attending classes regularly because you find that you discuss things more & explore your own individual feelings with each other. The NCT antenatal classes are available at a fee. The cost that I was quoted was £75 for 9 sessions of approximately 3 hrs long. For people on low incomes or who genuinely cannot afford to attend you can get this fee waived. I highly recommend the NCT antenatal classes and if you are interested they have a webpage: www.nctpregnancyandbabycare.com I hope you found this opinion both useful and informative. Thanks for reading it!
Being a mother of four children, I have experienced many tests throughout pregnancy. Thankfully, I had only minor problems and ended up with four healthy babies born in 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1996. The amount of tests can seem rather daunting at first. I have always been terrified of needles, for example, but four pregnancies meant so many blood tests that I eventually developed a kind of tolerance to them. True, it’s never something I enjoyed - and I did pass out the first time I had my blood taken, but it got easier! A typical antenatal visit to see the midwife will include a series of routine tests. You will have your urine sample checked (Weeing in a tiny bottle is another skill pregnant women develop!), your blood pressure taken and your tummy palpated (felt), for example. Most tests are - at worst - slightly uncomfortable, but are usually completely painless. You can always ask the midwives to explain what is going to happen first. Midwives often listen to the baby’s heart, which is a very reassuring sound, although it can seem rather weird, at first – a little life inside you is rather a daunting idea! You will be asked about baby movements, as the pregnancy progresses and whether you have had swollen ankles. Each test is done for a reason and yes, women have been popping out babies forever and haven’t always had such tests or as much medical intervention, but personally, I would prefer to be regularly checked. I feel it gives me confidence that everything is going well, reassurance and also the opportunity to ask any questions. Test can detect a rise in blood pressure which can be dangerous to both mother and baby. My cousin recently had a daughter and throughout the latter part of her pregnancy, she was hospitalised. Tests in her pregnancy had shown her blood pressure was dangerously high, a sign of pre-eclampsia. Thankfully, she received the right medical help and mother and baby
are doing well. Urine samples are tested for protein (another symptom of pre-eclampsia), sugar (to check for diabetes) and ketones (can be a symptom of sickness, not eating enough or sometimes a problem with the woman’s kidneys). Detecting such things early can prevent the condition worsening. Probably the test that most pregnant women look forward to the most is the ultrasound scan. This involves the woman drinking lots of water so her bladder is full, then she lies down and has jelly smeared on her tummy, so the scanner can produce a detailed picture of what is happening inside there. Since around 1996, photographs of the scan picture are generally available too. Again, it is reassuring to see little sprog is alive and kicking. The scan can also show any potential problems, such as the placenta being in the wrong position or the baby seeming to be rather smaller than it should be. There are far too many tests in pregnancy to include them all in this opinion. I am also not medically trained, my only experience is being a mum, but I hope this is useful. One test I refused in each of my four pregnancies is the AFP test. This is the alpha-foetoprotein test. It is a blood test taken around the 16th week of pregnancy. It is basically looking for high or low levels of AFP. The high levels can suggest more than one baby, a threat of miscarrying or the pregnancy being further along. A low level can mean the baby might have Down’s Syndrome. Either high or low results will be followed by a scan and further tests. This is a rather controversial test, because the suggestion is that if there is a low level, 16 weeks along still means the woman can choose to abort the baby. Of course, there are other reasons, but from the midwives I encountered, it was definitely seen as ‘the Down’s Syndrome test’. I have never considered aborting a baby, so always refused the test on these reasons. N
o-one ever said I needed the test for anything else, besides checking for an ‘abnormal’ baby. When I repeatedly told the midwives I did not want the test, I was often asked why, treated as an immature and ignorant woman, and constantly told it was better that I had the test. I would like to point out that this test (like all others) is NOT compulsory. It is an individual decision. Most tests are beneficial for the woman and the baby, but I don’t believe the AFP test is. Sorry for ending this opinion in a bit of a rant, but I am angry about the treatment I received on this issue. Otherwise, I commend the NHS on its antenatal care. I’d also like to wish a lot of good luck to all pregnant women. Enjoy your children.
There I was 6 months pregnant, knew no one in my area and apart from what I'd read in magazines new nothing about childbirth. My midwife suggested that I attend Antenatal Classes at my local Health Center, which, as it happened where run by her. Unlike the NCT classes where you have to book and start at a certain date, people can join her classes at anytime with no pre-booking required. As I later discovered she has a 7 week long course which she repeats continuously So with great intrepidation I went along for my first session, having no idea what was going to happen. On arrival I was pleased to see plenty of other expectant mums all with reasonably friendly looking faces. After a quick cup of tea/coffee we introduced ourselves with name and when our baby was due. Being only 6 months pregnant I was the one that had the longest time to go, but nobody seem to mind that. As it happened the first session I attended was the first in the course 'Labour', Ronnie, the midwife, told us how we would know when labour had started (if were really weren't sure!) and told us what we should back in our hospital bags. This was quite an eye opener for me, as I hadn't realized how little I knew about labour - or what was needed in your hospital bag. The following week was the second in the course 'Pain Relief'. During this session Ronnie explained all the various options available for pain relief, after which we could ask any questions which we may have had. Once we had finished discussing Pain Relief we were free to ask any other questions which we may have had about pregnancy or childbirth. Week three was about 'Complications' when she first ran through the list of possible complications (including C-Sections - and the reasons for them) I had quite a fright. There seemed to be so much that could go wrong, however she did also explain what would be done if any of the complications arose. This was one session of
the course which I was extremely glad to have heard as I ended up having a C-Section. Again, after the main discussion was over we were able to ask any other questions. Week Four was a crucial one for me 'Breastfeeding'. By that stage in my pregnancy I had already decided that I wanted to breastfeed - after all wasn't it really easy? I soon discovered that breastfeeding WASN'T going to be as easy as I thought -cracked nipples, mastitis and demanding where just three of the things I had never considered. However, Ronnie had invited along a mother who had already given birth who was breastfeeding and she assured us all that the rewards were much greater than the pain or discomfort. Week Five was a session about 'Bathing our Baby and Baby Massage'. Again a mother with her new baby had been invited and Ronnie demonstrated how to bath a newborn. I was stunned, I never imagined that bathing a baby could be so complex an issue, nevertheless it was extremely interesting. We then watched a video about Baby Massage and had a discussion about the benefits of it. A Health Visitor took week six, it was all about 'Life after birth'. Through the aid of pieces of card, clothes pegs and a long piece of string we (the pregnant mums) put together a timeline of '24hrs with our baby'. It basically went something like this: Early morning feed, get baby dressed, get dressed, eat breakfast, morning feed, mother calls, baby sleep, you sleep, shopping, baby feeds etc, etc. What the Health Visitor was trying to show us was how different our lives would be after our baby's had been born........and how right she was!! She also used the session to explain the role of the Health Visitors after our midwifes discharged us. Week seven was what Ronnie called 'Re-union'. Basically she invited back all the mothers who had attended the Antenatal classes recently who had already had their baby. This was a really great
session as it gave us the opportunity not only to see some of the mothers who had already left the group (and their newborn babies) but also to ask questions. This was really useful, as we were able to hear from the mothers themselves about Labour, Childbirth and coping in the first few weeks of their baby's life. The following week she returned to session one, which again I attended. I had expected it to be exactly the same, and rather mundane, but she changed the way in which she presented the whole course. Obviously one of the things I gained from attending these Antenatal Classes was a greater understanding of Childbirth and Labour. However, the most important thing for me was the friends which I made. While many of the mothers attended the classes and then went off on their own, several of them attended the Health Center’s Postnatal Group. I also chose to attend this group and was really pleased to find that the 6 mothers attending the Postnatal Group I had met previously in the Antenatal Groups. Some of them had babies 3 months older than my own, and I hadn't really got to know any of them properly during the Antenatal Classes but things soon changed. No one else joined our Postnatal Group for several weeks, and in that time we got to know each other really well. We started taking it in turns to have everyone else in the group round for lunch or coffee, and this later progressed to occasional 'girls nights out' -leaving our husbands at home with our baby's. Now, 9 months after my son was born I have a group of 6 very close friends, we have supported each other through all the ups and downs of the early months our baby's lives and will hopefully continue to do so for a long time to come. I can heartily recommend going to Antenatal Classes, not just to learn more about the ins and outs of Childbirth but also because you're highly likely to make to very valuable friendships.
The first proper visit or booking appointment as it is usually known will probably take place in the hospital where you will have your baby. The aim of this visit is to lay down the foundations on which your future care will be based during pregnancy,labour and after birth. At the visit you will meet a team of midwives who will be responsable for looking after you throughout your prenancy and birth. It will be helpful if you can arrange your subsequant appointments so that you get to meet most(or at least some) of the midwives. The midwife will want details of your age, occupation and religion -- she will also want to know about your ethnic background and may want to carry out some tests as some conditions such as sickle-cell,anaemia are more commen in afro-caribbean and mediterranean origin. The midwives will also need to know the date of your last period to allow a calculation of when your baby is due. You should tell her if you have irreguler periods or have recentaly come off the pill. If you have been pregnant before even if the pregnancy ended in a termination or miscarraige the midwive will need to know the details of this togeather with information of any previous labour. She will want to know if previous pregancies were straight forward whether your baby wasv premature, how long your labour lasted,where your baby was born and whether delivery was vaginal or caesarean. She will then ask you if the baby was healthy and what he/she weighed finally you will be asked if you breastfed and if so for how long. The midwive will need to know of any illnesses you have had in the past including a history of high blood pressure or any problems such as depression,you will be asked if you have been vaccinated against rubella(german measles). If you are not sure dont worry as a blood test will be done to confirm whether or not you are immune. You will also be asked if you are taking any medication and if so which. Your familys medical h
istory is relevant to your pregnancy for example twins tend to run in fsamilys. Diabetes and high blood pressure are often discovered at your first visit during a routine checkup. The mdwive will talk to you about the the options for antenatal care and delivery in your area, she will also discuss your diet and lifestyle including your alcohol consumpation and whether you smoke. The midwife will probably outline any maternity benefits you may be eligable for she will also tell you about antenatal classes and when you can start attending.
I was very nervous when I became pregnant with my first child (my son), as I had 3 miscarriages before I had him. When I went to the hospital for my first appointment with my midwife, I was slightly disconcerted by the fact that my midwife was going to be a man. Once I got to know him though he was absolutely fantastic! Up until twenty weeks I saw him every 2 weeks at the hospital, but I also had his mobile number, and he told me to call him if I had any concerns at all. When I was about 16 weeks pregnant I had some bleeding, and naturally I was terrified. I phoned him straight away and he told me to get an ambulance, and was at the hospital minutes after I arrived, he was extremely supportive and even managed to calm down my partner (he tends to get very emotional). He stayed while I had all the tests done and it turned out to just be a ruptured vein (quite common apparently),I don't know how I would have coped without someone that we knew being there, he was great. After twenty weeks, he came to see me every couple of weeks at home, and was very reassuring. I think it was at about 34 weeks that he started coming to see me at about once a week. When I went into labour he was on his day off, but he came to the hospital anyway, and stayed for my entire labour, which was about 14 hours. When I brought my son home he was not well and had to be re-admitted to hospital for a few days, Willie-John (the midwife) came to make sure that he was okay. He kept us on his books longer than he should have and would come out to see us at 9 and 10 o'clock at night when we got worried. He was so good that I asked to have him as my midwife again for my second child. There was a peice written about him in the Guardian recently, and a program about him on Carlton (he asked me to be in it, I declined, I didn't want to be on TV in labour!). Willie John Dolan is an excellent midwife and if all one to one care is the same then it should
be available to all. It is totally unfair that some people can have such a good experience with their antenatal care and others are denied that oppurtunity.
In this day and age we tend to think of a hospital birth with lots of drugs as the normal and correct thing but there are so many alternatives out there, yes there is always pain but it is only for a very short space of time in comparison to your life, you know that it will end and best of all you will have a fabulous baby at the end. When you register at the hospital in the early days of pregnancy you are usually lead to think that hospital and drugs is the only way to go, when I asked about home birth the hospital didn’t know what to say they had to go away, get me a phone number and a leaflet, and that was a large maternity hospital! Anyway home birth was not to be for me due to complications but there are still loads of other options. When I was pregnant I heard about a Frenchman called Dr Michel Odent whose philosophy is childbirth which is as natural as it is meant to be assuming that there are no medical conditions. He is very well known and respected in his field and has written a book called Birth Reborn. The book is so informative, it is all about the alternatives for childbirth and contains lots of stories of individual women. I am so glad that I bought this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was very informative and gave me lots of confidence to try for the birth that I wanted. I think that this book is a must for all pregnant women whether or not you want a natural childbirth.