The care of pregnant women presents a unique challenge to modern medicine. Most women will progress through pregnancy in an uncomplicated fashion and deliver a healthy infant requiring little medical or midwifery intervention. Unfortunately, a significant number will have medical problems which will complicate their pregnancy or develop such serious conditions that the lives of both themselves and their unborn child will be threatened. In 1928, a pregnant woman faced a 1 in 290 chance of dying from an obstetric complication related to the pregnancy; the most recent Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health put this figure at 1 in 19,020 . Undoubtedly, good antenatal care has made a significant contribution to this reduction. The current challenge of antenatal care is to identify those women who will require specialist support and help while allowing uncomplicated pregnancies to progress with minimal interference. The antenatal period also allows the opportunity for women, especially those in their first pregnancy, to receive information from a variety of health-care professionals regarding pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood.
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