So you got that all-important positive on the pregnancy test? Congratulations! You’re at least three weeks into your 40 week journey! But where do you go next? Let’s take you through the system, so you’re prepared.
A midwife will guide you through your pregnancy, and get you tapped into blood tests, scans and any other services you may need before planning your delivery with you. You can refer yourself to maternity services as soon as you know you are pregnant. They are usually aligned to a particular hospital. See which is your closest hospital and fill out the online form – this is called booking, and you don’t need to see your GP first. The midwife team will get in touch to arrange the next steps. You will have a blood test to check whether you are anaemic, have kidney or liver problems, have certain infectious diseases including HIV, and to check your blood group. They will ask you to take a vaginal swab from yourself to test for common sexually transmitted infections. Your midwife will visit to check your blood pressure and weight and ask questions about other medical conditions and that of your partner. This is usually around 8 to 10 weeks into your pregnancy. You will then be in the system to have your 12 week scan, which is an ultrasound scan to accurately date the pregnancy, and your 20 week scan, where any structural abnormalities, known as anomalies, are picked up, and you can usually find out the sex.
You should be taking supplements of folic acid and vitamin D, which are available at any pharmacist. Your blood count drops a little in any normal pregnancy, but if you know you have a tendency to anaemia, you may wish to buy iron supplements to keep topped up. If you smoke, it’s strongly recommended to give this up during pregnancy, as it carries risks to your growing baby. You are also recommended to stop alcohol. If you need any help with either of these, or have addiction issues with street or party drugs, you can access substance abuse services via your GP practice. Certain foods may be higher risk in pregnancy, so take a look online for those to avoid, such as uncooked meat or unpasteurised cheese. Emma's Diary is available free online and a good source of advice.
This can be a worrying time as your body changes and you want to do the best for your baby, and it can be hard to know what’s normal or when to seek help. If you experience bleeding or abdominal pain In your first 12 weeks – your first trimester – you can access the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) at your local hospital. It’s a good idea to call first to discuss with them. If you experience bleeding, abdominal pain or reduced movements of the baby after 12 weeks – in your second and third trimesters – you should attend the Maternity Unit at your local hospital. Again, try to call first. If you have any urinary symptoms – pain when peeing, going more often or going with more urgency – then it’s important to have a potential urinary tract infection treated swiftly in pregnancy, as it carries a risk. Get an emergency appointment at your GP surgery, or if out of hours, a local Urgent Treatment Centre or the Emergency Department can provide antibiotics.
If you have an existing medical condition and are under a hospital specialist, you should discuss with them ahead of any pregnancy whether you need any special considerations or need to change any prescribed medications. They will then give specific advice, and may consult with an obstetrician, a doctor who looks after pregnancy and delivers babies. If you develop certain conditions during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or thyroid problems, you may attend shared care clinics between a specialist and an obstetrician. Any complications with the pregnancy, such as abnormalities seen on the scan or pre-eclampsia, and an obstetrician will oversee your care and advise on special measures, such as delivering early or taking certain medications. Your midwife and/or your GP can get you referred to specialist services or an obstetrician.