Some common questions and answers:
How often will I have to see the doctors and midwives during the pregnancy?
Your midwife will go through this in detail at your booking visit but as a rule you only see someone every four weeks until 28 weeks, every two weeks until 36 weeks and every week after that. The normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks as counted from the first day of your last menstrual period, not from conception.
What is the booking visit?
This is your first visit to the hospital and is usually to see a midwife. The midwife will want a lot of your details including information about past pregnancies and illnesses. It will involve several blood tests to check your blood group and an infection screen. There may also be a dating scan if you or the staff are unsure of how many weeks pregnant you are. Finally the midwife will go through the next steps of your antenatal care, provide information about screening tests and give general pregnancy information. They will also be able to tell you about antenatal classes.
What infections will they test for at the booking visit?
Rubella, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV. All women will routinely be given HIV testing in this area. This is because, if a patient is known to be positive, the risk of transmitting the infection to the baby can be reduced from 30-40% to less than 1%.
What are Nuchal fold scans and does everyone have them?
A Nuchal fold scan is a screening test for Down's syndrome performed at about 11 weeks. It is not offered routinely to all women at every hospital or birthing centre. However, most facilities now offer it to everyone. The benefits, problems associated with and availability of this test are explained on the Dr Foster website . Nuchal fold scans are available privately at the Fetal Medicine Centre in Harley Street W1 (tel 020 7486 0476).
Do I have to change my diet?
It is generally recommended that you continue with a normal well-balanced diet during pregnancy. However, you are advised to avoid un-pasteurised soft cheeses and patés because of concern about infection, and we recommend you avoid eating liver. We supply a more detailed
patient information leaflet entitled 'Pre-conception and Early Pregnancy'.
Do I have to avoid cats?
We recommend that you don’t handle cat litter when pregnant. This is because of concern about infection with toxoplasmosis, which is found in cat faeces. For the same reason, we suggest that you do not do any gardening without gloves.
Why should I take folic acid and for how long?
We recommend that any women who is planning a pregnancy or who is up to 12 weeks pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. This is to prevent the risk of your baby being affected by neural tube defects (spina bifida). It is only needed in the first part of a pregnancy as this is when the neural tube develops and is at risk. Some women may need to take folic acid later in pregnancy but for other reasons. Your doctor will tell you if they think you should take folic acid later.
Can I exercise as normal?
Yes. Generally we suggest you continue as normal according to how you feel, although in later pregnancy you may need to moderate your regime. Nevertheless, it is generally recommended that you don’t exercise so much that your heart rate exceeds 140 beats per minute, and it’s best to avoid contact sports.
Can I have sex?
Yes, there’s no reason not to – unless there are medical complications such as placenta previa.
Can I continue to smoke?
It’s important to try to stop smoking during your pregnancy as it can have detrimental effects on the baby. If you find it impossible, aim to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke. We can offer you smoking cessation advice or refer you to a smoking cessation clinic.
Can I continue to drink alcohol?
Consuming large quantities of alcohol is known to harm the baby during pregnancy.
Can I take painkillers?
Paracetamol can be taken safely in pregnancy according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For other medications please ask your pharmacist or GP.
How do I find out about antenatal classes?
Your midwife will tell you about the antenatal classes provided locally by the NHS. Some women choose to pay for additional classes with the National Childbirth Trust. Tel: 0870 444 8707 or email:
What is prenatal perineal massage and should I be doing this during my pregnancy?
This form of self massage is suitable for all pregnant women and in particular women in their first pregnancy. It is believed to reduce the risk of tears during vaginal delivery of a baby. For a leaflet ask at reception.
What do I do if I have pain in my abdomen or start bleeding from the vagina?
The biggest concern in early pregnancy (before your dating scan) is that pain
and bleeding may signify an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy means that
the pregnancy is not within the womb and could burst. Unfortunately it is
extremely serious so if you have these symptoms always seek urgent medical
advice. However the more common causes of bleeding and pain are miscarriage or threatened miscarriage. A threatened miscarriage is bleeding in early pregnancy that does not harm the pregnancy. If you need urgent advice please contact the practice on 020 7385 7777. Outside of surgery hours, call 0208 969 0808 or NHS direct on 0845 4647 for advice and medical help.
I want to tell my friends and family but am concerned that I could miscarry.
Miscarriage is when a pregnancy fails. It is relatively common and most occur before 12 weeks. Some people therefore wait until then but others do not mind telling people. Is it entirely up to you. For more information about antenatal care, visit this useful website: www.drfoster.co.uk/birth. If you are planning a pregnancy please have a blood test to check that you are immune to Rubella and please remember to take folic acid 400mcg from when you decide to conceive until you are 12 weeks pregnant.