Generally, you will have approximately 8-10 antenatal appointments with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy. You may visit your GP, antenatal clinic or midwife monthly until 32 weeks, fortnightly after that and you may have weekly visits in the last month.
You are entitled to take paid time off from your employment to attend antenatal appointments (this also includes some antenatal classes). These employment rights are protected in Irish law through the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004, the Maternity Protection (Time Off for Ante-Natal Care and Post-Natal Care) Regulations 1995, and the Maternity Protection (Disputes and Appeals) Regulations 1995.
The first antenatal visit
Your first visit to hospital can be any time from 12-20 weeks in the pregnancy. The purpose of this visit is to get a full picture of your health and the health of your baby. You can expect to speak to a midwife, who will ask a range of background questions about your health and medical history. This will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions about your care and the range of services that are available to you. You will be asked for a urine sample, will have your blood pressure taken and will have blood tests. The purpose of the blood tests will be explained to you. In some hospitals, you may have an ultrasound scan on your first visit, at others you will have it at around 20 weeks.
The visit lasts approximately 2 hours. If your pregnancy is normal, subsequent visits will be much shorter. Visits can be shared between the hospital and your GP or midwife.
At each visit you will provide a urine sample, your blood pressure will be taken and you will be examined. If you have any questions or worries related to your pregnancy, you should ask the midwife or doctor. Most hospitals will have a system of parentcraft classes which you and your partner or friend can attend near the time of birth. These sessions will provide you with an opportunity to learn more about breastfeeding, nutrition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preparing you and your family for the birth of the baby.
Employment and antenatal visits
If you become pregnant while in employment you are entitled, under employment law, to take time off to attend antenatal appointments. You should apply to your employer in writing providing medical evidence of your pregnancy and telling your employer that you need time off to attend antenatal appointments. You should give at least 2 weeks' written notice of the date and time of your appointments.
If this notice is not given for reasons not in your control, then you can retain your entitlement, provided you write to your employer with an explanation and with the notice. You will need to do this within one week of the appointment.
For any visit after the first appointment your employer may ask to see your appointment card. You are entitled to medical visits after the birth of your baby for 14 weeks following the birth, including any period taken on maternity leave following the birth.
You may be entitled to take paid time off from work to attend some antenatal classes. For expectant fathers, this is a once-off right to attend the 2 classes immediately prior to the birth. For expectant mothers, the entitlement is to attend only one set of classes (except the last 3 in a set) over all her pregnancies while in employment.