The World Health Organisation (2003) defines antenatal care as “care before birth”, and includes education, counselling, screening and treatment to monitor and to promote the well being of the mother and baby. According to Johnson and Taylor (2000) the aim of antenatal care is to assist women in remaining healthy, monitoring the progress of pregnancy in order to support normal fetal development and thus aid the health of the unborn. Antenatal care should also provide support and guidance to the woman and her partner to help them in their transition to parenthood. The midwife can provide sufficient antenatal care by developing a partnership with the woman, providing a holistic approach that meets her individual needs, exchanging information with the woman and her family to enable them to make informed decisions about pregnancy and birth and to recognise complications of pregnancy and facilitating the woman and her family in their preparations to meet the demands of birth. Henderson and McDonald (2004) believe that an essential aim of antenatal care is the role of the midwife in being an advocate for the woman and her family during pregnancy, and supporting her right to chose care that is appropriate for her own needs and those of her family. This paper will focus on the role of the midwife in antenatal care and provides a good insight on health promotion during the antenatal period. Areas such as smoking, alcohol, diet, and exercise are explored in detail with attention also given to the role of the midwife in antenatal classes and the promotion of breastfeeding. The frequency of antenatal visits is also explored as well as the importance of foetal development.
Antenatal care should be sought early in pregnancy. It should be provided by a small group of carers with whom the woman feels comfortable and there should be continuity of care throughout the antenatal period. Antenatal visits should occur monthly up