Antenatal appointments explained

While physical and hormonal changes will constantly remind her she’s about to become a mum, you can pretty much carry on as usual. Antenatal appointments are one part of the pregnancy you can really take part in, and for many dads-to-be it can be the moment it all becomes very, very real.

Antenatal – posh for ‘before birth’

You want everything to be ok with your precious new cargo don’t you? Antenatal appointments are all about making sure that everything is ok and stays that way.

The first visit

And, yes, it is important for you to go. You’ll meet your midwife – the second most important person in your universe for the next nine months, more important even than the mother-in-law.

The midwife will do some basic tests, fix up your visits right through the pregnancy and check things like Baby’s growth, heartrate and mum’s wellbeing, blood type and blood pressure. Baby might only be the size of a golf ball – but there’s a beating heart and if you behave yourself, the midwife will let you hear it.

Lots more visits

Antenatal care is all about checking progress regularly and spotting any problems as early as possible – so keeping the appointments is important. There are lots of different tests they can do so it can also be confusing. What to expect?

Two types of test

Basically, they can test to see if there might be a problem (a screening test) and if they spot something they can test to find out for certain (a diagnostic test). There are two key types of test – scans and blood tests.

Ultrasound scan

You’ve seen it on dozens of TV shows – it’s where a radiographer runs a handheld scanner over the abdomen, you get a jumpy image of the baby inside the womb and it’s hard to make anything out until they point out which end is which.

It’s really useful. To the trained eye, a scan can show all sorts of detail about what’s going on. For the two of you, it’s a way to set your minds at rest at a time when you might be anxious.

You’ll be offered a scan about the time of your first antenatal that will give a pretty accurate estimate of how far the pregnancy has gone, when your baby’s due and – sit down for this one – whether it’s twins. Or more! It happens.

Meet Baby

Around weeks 18 to 20, Baby’s roughly six inches long and it’s time for another scan!

This one is brilliant. You get to see your offspring for the first time and you can usually take home a photo if you want. Your mates are sure to be thrilled. And the immediate family will go into excitement overdrive at how clever you are. But this scan is about more than just Baby’s first photo, it will also include important checks for anything unusual or potential problems. As excited as you may both be about seeing Baby for the first time, Mum may also be quite anxious so be sure to rein it in until you get the all clear that everything is going according to plan.

Football or netball?

At this stage of Baby’s development it’s possible to tell the sex. So – before you go for the scan make sure you’ve both decided whether you want to know – and if you don’t want to know tell the radiographer, so she doesn’t blurt it out by mistake. (“Will you look at that. It’s obviously a boy.”)

What’s that then?

Make sure you ask the radiographer to explain what she can see. If you’re worried about anything you can see, now’s the time to ask about it.

Bloody tests

No-one actually likes needles and blood tests and that sort of thing. But a blood test can help show up problems, like anaemia, infection or antibodies that may cause problems. Blood tests are essential – so be brave, go with her, hold her hand and don’t faint.

Other tests

There are quite a few different tests that your midwife can carry out if she thinks there might be something to be checked out. If she does want to do a particular test, it’s natural to feel a bit nervous – what’s this all about? But she has a good reason, so go with it and agree. If there is something wrong, the sooner she knows the better.