Healthy Baby Bumps
Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it’s important to see your GP or a midwife as soon as possible so you can schedule the appointments you will need during your pregnancy. These are called your antenatal appointments or antenatal care. Antenatal care is the care you receive from healthcare professionals during your pregnancy.
Why go to antenatal appointments?
These appointments will allow your GP, midwife and other people on your healthcare team to help both you and your baby stay healthy. Even if your pregnancy is going well and you’re feeling well, it’s important for you to attend your appointments so that any potential risks can be identified, prevented or reduced.
It’s also a great opportunity to ask any questions you have about your pregnancy such as what’s happening during each trimester, physical pregnancy symptoms and the birth itself. You may want to ask questions about caring for your baby after the birth.
You can also get support to help you with your lifestyle, including mental health or dietary advice, or help quitting smoking or drinking alcohol. You can discuss any problems you might be having at home.
Who will I be seeing at my antenatal appointments?
You may want to see your own GP first, before choosing a midwife. It’s up to you.
It can also depend on whether you’re planning to give birth at a public hospital. If so, it’s likely that you will see a doctor or midwife at the hospital.
If you intend to have your baby at a private hospital, your appointments will most likely be with your obstetrician in their rooms.
How many antenatal appointments will I have?
If this is your first pregnancy and you’re not experiencing any problems, it’s likely you’ll have about 8 to 10 appointments. Your GP or midwife will give you an appointment plan during your first antenatal visit.
If this is not your first pregnancy, you’ll probably have 7-9 appointments if you had an uncomplicated pregnancy before.
The number of visits can change depending on whether your pregnancy becomes complicated. If it does, your midwife or doctor may need to increase the number of appointments and you may need more tests and scans. You can also organise to see your doctor or midwife if you have any problems or concerns.
STIs and Pregnancy
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that can be passed on during sex, and in some cases can be passed from mother to child. If left untreated, STIs can cause serious problems for both mother and child. If you think you may have an STI, it’s important to see a doctor.
What is an STI?
STIs are caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. These organisms can pass between people in semen, blood or vaginal and other bodily fluids.
Many STIs can also be transmitted by close skin-to-skin contact (for example during foreplay), through blood-to-blood contact, and by sharing needles and other equipment for intravenous drug use. STIs can also be passed from a woman to her baby during pregnancy and childbirth.
Can having an STI affect my pregnancy?
STIs can affect your ability to become pregnant (your fertility), as well as your pregnancy. If you are pregnant, or wanting to become pregnant, tested for STIs is recommended even if you have been tested in the past. If you have concerns about this, discuss this with your doctor.
Women who are pregnant can get the same STIs as women who are not pregnant. If you get infected with an STI while pregnant, it can cause serious problems for you and your developing baby, so if you are worried this is a possibility, discuss getting a check done with your doctor.
If you do contract an STI while pregnant, getting early treatment can reduce the risks. Most STIs can be easily treated to keep you and your baby healthy.
How can STIs affect my baby?
Some STIs, such as syphilis and HIV, can infect a baby while it’s still in the mother’s womb. Others, such as chlamydia and genital herpes, can infect the baby as it is being delivered.
STIs can pose significant health risks to unborn babies. These include:
Getting regular medical care during your pregnancy and discussing any concerns you may have of STIs with your doctor or midwife help reduce the risk of any problems caused by STIs during your pregnancy.
Syphilis in pregnancy
There is an ongoing outbreak of infectious syphilis occurring predominantly among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15—29 years in Northern Australia, including in north Queensland. The outbreak currently affects Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.
Pregnant women are routinely tested for syphilis and all women should have a syphilis test in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or at the first antenatal visit, and at other times through the pregnancy, which your midwife/GP will explain.
There is no vaccine for syphilis. Previous infection and previous treatment do not protect a person from getting syphilis again. However once detected, syphilis is easily treated.
Diagnosis and treatment for STIs
Untreated STIs stay active in the body and may be passed on to sexual partners, or your baby, without you being aware. Therefore, it’s important to get tested if you think you may have an STI.
Having a test for STIs is simple. The type of test depends on the STI, but tests usually involve providing a urine sample, a swab, a blood test, or a physical examination. This test is done as part of your antenatal appointments. You or your partner can also request an STI test from your GP or a Sexual Health Service.
If the test shows you have an STI, you may need further tests and treatment. STIs caused by bacteria, like chlamydia, can usually be treated with antibiotics. Other STIs, such as those caused by viruses (for example herpes), can be managed to control symptoms, but are not always curable.
If you have any questions about antenatal care or concerns about your pregnancy, contact:
- Speak to a health worker
- Your GP
- Your midwife
Sources: Australian Sexual Health Alliance (STI management guidelines - pregnant women).Department of Health (Routine maternal health tests). Department of Health (Queensland) (Sexually transmissible infections). Fertility Society of Australia (Sexually transmitted infections and reproductive outcomes). Mayo Clinic (STDs and pregnancy: get the facts). Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (STIs). Royal Women’s Hospital (About STIs).