Booking early!

The NHS has a new target to get pregnant women to book early for antenatal care – it is now one of the NHS Scotland performance measures, which means that NHS managers have to report to government on how well this is being achieved.

At least 80% of pregnant women in each SIMD quintile will have booked for antenatal care by the 12th week of gestation by March 2015 so as to ensure improvements in breast feeding rates and other important health behaviours

The hope is that if women can be persuaded to book as early as possible in their pregnancy then there is more likelihood that they will get the support and advice they need in the period of foetal development that is the most sensitive. However this is not something that can be done by maternity services alone as was pointed out in the refreshed Framework for Maternity Servces last year

We know that improving access to antenatal care is insufficient; it needs to be accompanied by a focus on continuous, effective,  assessment of health and social need in order to identify any prevention and early intervention actions needed before babies are born and in the early days of their lives. We know that to do this effectively, maternity care staff need to work in partnership with each other and with women and their families, using health asset or strengths based approaches

Women, their partners and families need to be able to access a range of support and advice, not just medical information, but also information on child development, nutrition, as well as social and psychological support where needed. The NhS is often known as the cradle to grave service – but in reality it is the conception to grave service – and for future health outcomes those first few months post conception are a key time for services to support both parents and the future child.