You're entitled to hold onto and review your antenatal notes in your own time and, although some health authorities don't routinely give them to women, you can still ask for them. Remember to take them to every antenatal appointment and to any GP visits.
"Even if you think a condition isn't related to your pregnancy, it may turn out to be relevant," says midwife and Mother & Baby online expert Chris Salvage. In fact, it's worth taking your notes with you wherever you go – that way if you need medical attention while you are away from home, you'll have all the necessary information on hand.
What does it all mean?
Understanding your notes can be tricky, as medical jargon and abbreviations are used. Although antenatal notes vary slightly from one health area to another, we explain all the terms you're likely to come across.
The date of each antenatal visit.
Weeks or gestation
The length of your pregnancy in weeks, from the first day of your last monthly period (LMP).
Remember to take your antenatal notes to every antenatal appointment and to any GP visits.
Your weight is recorded at your first antenatal visit, but most clinics don't weigh you again.
Urinalysis (urine testing)
A urine sample will be tested at every antenatal visit for the following things:
- Sugar traces This may be a sign of gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy). If sugar appears repeatedly, a blood test will be carried out.
- Albumin (Alb) This protein may be a sign of pre-eclampsia (a serious pregnancy condition affecting the placenta). Most women have a trace of protein in their urine at some time during their pregnancy. 'Although protein in the urine is fairly common, it should always be investigated,' says Chris Salvage.
- Ketones These chemicals are produced by your body when your fat-burning mechanisms aren't working properly. This may happen if you've got gestational diabetes, you're not eating enough, or you have pregnancy sickness.
If albumin or ketones are detected in your urine, the quantity is recorded with plus signs: + means a trace, ++ means more than a trace and +++ means a significant amount. You may also see the letters Tr, which means a small trace has been found. A tick, nil or NAD all mean the same – nothing abnormal found.
Understanding your notes can be tricky, as medical jargon and abbreviations are used.
Your blood pressure will be written down as two numbers, one on top of the other, for example, 120/70. In pregnancy, a normal blood pressure range is between 95/60 and 135/85, but it's whatever is normal for you that's important. Your blood pressure will be measured at your booking-in visit and this figure will be used as your normal level, against which future readings will be compared.
Height of fundus (FH)
The fundus is the top of your uterus (womb). Your midwife will be able to feel where this is by pressing on your abdomen and will measure it from your pubic bone. Each centimetre roughly equates to a week of your baby's growth, and this figure will be put in your notes.
The 'lie' refers to the position of the crown of your baby's head (occiput) within your pelvis.
O (occiput) – this refers to the back of your baby's head, which could be facing:
- R – right
- L – left
- A (anterior) – to the front
- P (posterior) – to the back
- L (lateral) or T (transverse) – to the side
The 'presentation' refers to which way up your baby is:
- C or Ceph (cephalic) or Vx (vertex) – head down
- Br (breech) – feet or bottom first
Relation of PP to brim
PP (presenting part) refers to the bit of your baby that will arrive first (usually the head). Your midwife will note down how much of your baby's head can be felt above the brim of your pelvis as fifths: 1/5 means it's starting to engage and 5/5 means it's fully engaged (your baby's head has moved into your pelvis ready to be born). E or Eng means engaged, while NE means not engaged.
At around 12 weeks, your doctor or midwife will listen for your baby's heartbeat.
- FHH or H – fetal heart heard
- FHNH – fetal heart not heard – this isn't necessarily anything to worry about
- FMF – fetal movements have been felt
Although antenatal notes vary slightly from one health area to another, there are common terms you're likely to come across.
The medical term for swelling, which most commonly occurs in your feet, ankles or hands during pregnancy because your body retains more fluid. It can also be a sign of pre-eclampsia, so your midwife will always check this out.
This stands for haemoglobin, a substance found in red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body and to your baby. An essential ingredient of haemoglobin is iron. A blood test will determine your haemoglobin level – if it's low, you'll be prescribed iron supplements to raise it.
Remarks or notes
In this section, your midwife will record any other information such as the date booked for a scan (u/s or ultrasound), any further blood test you might need, or any medication you've been prescribed.
Did you know?
Within a few years, midwives and doctors will all be using standard antenatal notes. This means that if you move health authorities during your pregnancy you won't have to have a new set of notes made up.