It’s amazing to think that a hundred years ago there was little or no antenatal care in the UK. Now there are recognised schemes of care in pregnancy across the UK. With geographic and demographic variations across the UK, whether urban or rural, not all areas can offer exactly the same services.
However the main aim of antenatal care remains constant: to monitor the progress of your pregnancy in order to help you and your baby to be as healthy as possible. It’s a big subject – this week we’ll look at some of your options.
But, firstly, how are you in week five of your pregnancy?
You are now three weeks past your first missed period and as every day passes you will be more sure that you are pregnant. If you have delayed doing a pregnancy test until now there should be no doubt about the result.
Breasts – A prickling, tingling feeling in the breasts especially around the nipples occurs early and you may already have felt this. It is due to the increased blood supply to your breasts. The early enlargement in your breasts continues and they may become painful and tense. You will probably notice bluish surface veins just under the skin.
You may feel quite tired. If you can, allow yourself some relaxation time. If you are working, try and get away from the work environment and sit in a quiet place.
Time out is a great thing – time to contemplate what is going on. How do you feel about it? Sometimes emotions at this time can be extreme – it’s all part of the huge changes.
Who gives care in pregnancy?
People involved in your care during pregnancy usually include a team of professionals who work together for the overall good of you and your baby. The team can include:
- Your midwife, who’s specialty is to care for women in pregnancy, labour, the birth of your baby and until about six weeks afterwards. Most midwives are employed by the NHS. A few are independent and usually can be accessed on-line, or by word-of-mouth.
- Your General Practitioner (GP) who will have an overall picture of your health.
- Your obstetrician, a doctor who has specialised in caring for women during pregnancy, labour and afterwards and who would be specially called in if there were a problem.
- Your health visitor, who is a nurse with additional expertise in the promotion of health.
Other team members can be referred to if necessary and include, for example, the physiotherapist, radiographer, specialist doctors, e.g. a physician for medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
What about options?
Although five weeks is still very early in pregnancy it’s good to consider your options for antenatal care and think about what is on offer in your area. The majority of women receive antenatal care in the community, either in their own home or at a local clinic.
Many women now see a midwife as a first point of contact in pregnancy. Most midwives working in the community have a link with the local Health Centre. Just go, or phone, and ask to be referred to the midwife. From that point, you and the midwife can make an appointment for your initial assessment, sometimes known as the booking visit. You may have had a chance to say hello to your midwife before that, but usually the initial assessment is an appointment with you, in your own home where the midwife and you will have a chance to talk about you, your past and present health and your pregnancy.
Some women opt to go and tell their GP first that they think they are pregnant. What you do is your choice. However if you have a healthy history your GP will likely refer you to your midwife. If, however you wanted your GP to perform your antenatal care then that could be arranged.
There are hospital and community-based clinics for women who require care from both the midwife and an obstetrician or physician. These usually work well together.
Unless you have been pregnant before, the initial assessment visit, (the booking visit), may well be your first major contact with the maternity services. Enjoy it; ask questions; find out what is on offer. We’ll discuss other issues like where you would like to have your baby and how you are planning to feed your baby as the weeks go on.
Week 5 – development of your baby
Very rapid cell division and growth continues. The neural tube running down your baby’s back has closed. Growth of the head is now particularly noticeable. Five weeks after conception your baby’s brain and face are forming – the nose is developing and even tiny nostrils begin to show, eye lenses are developing. Last week’s arm buds now have developed basic hand ‘plates’ – a bit like paddles.
As for size – well, think of the top of a pencil eraser and imagine your tiny bundle about that size making very important progress deep inside you.
Next week we’ll discuss your initial assessment or booking visit so that you have an idea of what to expect on that day.