While you're pregnant, you will normally see a small number of healthcare professionals regularly, led by your midwife or doctor. They want to make you feel as comfortable as possible while you're pregnant and when you have your baby.
Many pregnant women would like to get to know the people who care for them during pregnancy and the birth of their baby. The NHS is trying to make this happen, but in the meantime you may see several different professionals.
The professionals you see should introduce themselves and explain what they do. If they forget, ask them. Make a note of who you have seen and what they have said in case there is a point you need to discuss later on.
Below is a list of the people you are most likely to meet. Some may have students with them who are being trained, and you'll be asked if you mind the students being present.
A midwife is an expert in normal pregnancy and birth. Midwives are specially trained to care for mothers and babies throughout normal pregnancy, labour and after the birth. They provide care for most women at home or in hospital.
Increasingly, midwives work both in hospitals and in the community (GP surgeries and home visits) so that the same midwife can provide antenatal care and be present at the birth. You will know the name of the midwife responsible for your care.
A midwife will look after you during labour if everything is straightforward, and they'll probably deliver your baby. If any complications develop during your pregnancy or delivery, you'll also see a doctor. You will probably also meet student midwives and student doctors. After the birth, you and your baby will be cared for by midwives or maternity support workers.
An obstetrician is a doctor who specialises in the care of women during pregnancy, labour and after birth. In some hospitals, you'll automatically see an obstetrician. In others, your midwife or GP will refer you for an appointment if they have a particular concern, such as previous complications in pregnancy or chronic illness. You can ask to see an obstetrician if you have any concerns that you want to discuss.
An anaesthetist is a doctor who specialises in providing pain relief and anaesthesia. If you decide to have an epidural for pain relief during labour, it will be given by an anaesthetist, who's responsible for making sure you stay pain-free throughout your labour.
If you require a caesarean section or instrumental delivery, for example with forceps or ventouse (a vacuum device that helps deliver the baby's head), an anaesthetist provides the appropriate anaesthesia. In many hospitals, your midwife can arrange for you to talk to an anaesthetist about pain relief if you have medical or obstetric problems.
A paediatrician is a doctor specialising in the care of babies and children. A paediatrician may check your baby after the birth to make sure everything is OK, and they will be present when your baby is born if you've had a difficult labour. If your baby has any problems, you'll be able to discuss these with the paediatrician. If your baby is born at home or your stay in hospital is short, you may not see a paediatrician at all. Your midwife or GP can check on you and your baby.
A sonographer is specially trained to carry out ultrasound scans. A sonographer will perform your dating scan (around 12 weeks), nuchal translucency scan (around 11-13 weeks, usually done at the same time as the dating scan) or anomaly scan (around 20 weeks). Some women are also scanned at other times in their pregnancy.
An obstetric physiotherapist is specially trained to help you cope with physical changes during pregnancy, childbirth and afterwards. Some attend antenatal classes and teach antenatal exercises, relaxation and breathing, active birth positions and other ways to keep yourself fit and healthy during pregnancy and labour. After the birth, they advise on postnatal exercises to tone up your muscles.
Health visitors are specially trained nurses who support and educate families from pregnancy through to a child's fifth birthday. You may meet your health visitor before the birth of your baby and in the first few weeks after the birth. You may continue to see your health visitor or a member of the team at home or at your child health clinic, Children's Centre, health centre or GP surgery. Find a Children's Centre near you.
If you have any concerns about special diets or eating healthily, a dietitian can give you the advice you need, for example if you develop gestational diabetes.
Supervisor of midwives
A supervisor of midwives (SoM) can help and support you if you are having any problems with your care, or if you feel that your wishes and requests are not being considered. A SoM is an experienced midwife who has had extra training and education to support other midwives in providing the best quality maternity care. Every midwife has a named SoM.
The phone number for your supervisor of midwives should be in your handheld notes, or you can call your hospital's labour ward (find local hospital maternity units) or local birth centre. You can also ask your local supervising authority midwifery officer, whose contact details are on the Nursing and Midwifery Council website. Discussing issues with the SoM won't affect your care or influence how you're further supported in your pregnancy, birth and aftercare.