Your Pregnancy Journey

Your Pregnancy Journey

When you find out you’re pregnant, you may feel happy and excited, or shocked, confused and upset. Everybody is different, and don’t worry if you’re not feeling as happy as you expected. Even if you’ve been trying to get pregnant, your feelings may take you by surprise.

However you’re feeling, contact an NHS professional (such as a midwife, GP or practice nurse) so that you can start getting antenatal pregnancy care. This is the care that you’ll receive leading up to the birth of your baby.

Finding out you're pregnant

Register your pregnancy

Your First Midwife Appointment

Your appointments can take place at:

  • your home
  • a Children’s Centre
  • a GP surgery
  • a hospital

You’ll usually go to the hospital for your pregnancy scans.

Ultrasound scans in pregnancy

Ultrasound scans use sound waves to build a picture of the baby in the womb. The scans are painless, have no known side effects on mothers or babies, and can be carried out at any stage of pregnancy.

For many women, ultrasound scans are the highlight of pregnancy. It’s very exciting to “see” your baby in the womb, often moving their hands and legs.

When are scans offered?

  • at 8 to 14 weeks
  • and between 18 and 21 weeks

The first scan is sometimes called the dating scan. The sonographer estimates when your baby is due (the estimated date of delivery, or EDD) based on the baby’s measurements.

The second scan usually takes place between 18 and 21 weeks of pregnancy. This scan checks for structural abnormalities (anomalies) in the baby.

An ultrasound scan can be used to:

  • check your baby’s size – at the dating scan, this gives a better idea of how many weeks pregnant you are; your due date, which is originally calculated from the first day of your last period, will be adjusted according to the ultrasound measurements
  • check whether you’re having more than one baby
  • detect some abnormalities
  • show the position of your baby and the placenta – for example, when the placenta is low down in late pregnancy, a caesarean section may be advised
  • check that the baby is growing normally – this is particularly important if you’re carrying twins, or you’ve had problems in this pregnancy or a previous pregnancy

Making your birth plan

A birth plan is a record of what you would like to happen during your labour and after the birth. You don’t have to create a birth plan but, if you would like one, your midwife will be able to help.

It also gives your midwife the chance to get to know you better, and understand your feelings and priorities, and allows you to think about or discuss some things more fully with your partner, friends and relatives.

Your birth plan is personal to you. It depends on what you want, your medical history, your circumstances and what is available at your maternity service. 

You need to be flexible and prepared to do things differently from your birth plan if complications arise with you or your baby, or if facilities such as a birth pool aren’t available.

The maternity team will tell you what they advise in your particular circumstances. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need to.

You can find out more about the things you need to think about when making a birth plan, such as:

  • where you can give birth
  • pain relief
  • forceps or ventouse (intervention or instrumental delivery)
  • caesarean section
  • your baby after the birth

You and your partner can also think about what your birth partner can do to support you during labour.

Think you're in labour

If it’s your first pregnancy, you may feel unsure about when you should go into hospital or a midwifery unit. The best thing to do is to call your hospital or unit for advice.

If your waters have broken, you’ll probably be asked to go in to be checked.

If it’s your first baby and you’re having contractions but your waters have not broken, you may be advised to wait. You’ll probably be asked to come in when your contractions are:

  • regular
  • strong
  • about 5 minutes apart
  • lasting at least 60 seconds

Don’t forget to phone the hospital or unit before leaving home, and remember to take your notes.

If you’re planning a home birth, follow the procedure you have agreed with your midwife during your discussions about the onset of labour. 

If you carry your own notes, take them to the maternity unit admissions desk. You will be taken to the labour ward or your room, where you can change into a hospital gown or other clothes of your own.

The midwife will ask you about what has been happening so far and will examine you, with your permission. If you’re having a home birth, this examination will take place at home. The midwife will ask to: 

  • take your pulse, temperature and blood pressure, and check your urine
  • feel your abdomen to check the baby’s position, and record or listen to your baby’s heart 
  • probably do an internal examination to find out how much your cervix has opened, so they can then tell how far your labour has progressed.

These checks will be repeated at intervals throughout your labour. Always ask about anything you want to know.

Delivery rooms have become more homely in recent years. Most have easy chairs, bean bags and mats, so you can move about in labour and change position. Some have baths, showers or birthing pools. You should feel comfortable in the room where you are giving birth.

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