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When a woman thinks she may be pregnant, she can contact her GP, or maternity service. Once the pregnancy is confirmed, she will be put in touch with the midwife and health visiting team who will help her to develop a personalised plan of care for pregnancy. GPs, midwives and health visitors are there to care for the mother and support the baby’s development, and give both parents information about things like nutrition and medication, drinking alcohol and stopping smoking. They will be able to discuss the benefits that mothers can get during pregnancy (some of these, like free dental care, carry on for a year after the birth of the baby). They can also put parents in touch with other local services, including children’s centres, for other support and information.
Mothers and fathers can choose antenatal groups to help them learn and feel ready for the arrival of their child . Antenatal groups can help parents to prepare for the baby’s birth, looking after a new baby, and supporting their development. Most importantly, groups for expectant mothers and fathers help with preparing for parenthood which is one of life’s most significant life changes and offer the chance to meet other families expecting babies at around the same time. A range of organisations offer antenatal groups and courses, including local health centres, hospitals, and children’s centres as well as private and voluntary groups. We are helping local services to make sure antenatal groups reflect the priorities of new mothers and fathers and do more to support them through the journey to parenthood and family life, continuing after the baby’s birth.
We want to see parents being given more choice about where to give birth, including at home, in a midwifery unit or birth centre, or in a hospital, with advice from their midwife or doctor helping them decide what may be best for their own and their baby’s health. Whether they are in hospital or at home, midwives will guide and support parents in the first few days as well as check that the mother is recovering from the birth.
We are doubling the number of families who can benefit from the Family Nurse Partnership, to support young mothers and fathers who may need extra help to prepare for parenthood and provide good care for their child, especially when facing unexpected challenges. This will enable vulnerable teenage mothers and young fathers who are becoming parents for the first time to get intensive support from a family nurse. The family nurse offers parents support from pregnancy until the child is two, helping them to learn and make changes so that they take care of their babies, themselves, and each other and plan for the future.
There is a wealth of information and advice available to mothers, fathers and carers, particularly on the internet, and we would like to make this much easier for them to find and use. Most mothers and fathers look first to family and friends for advice about parenting issues, and then to professionals and other trusted organisations, largely from the voluntary and community sector. We are working with partners to explore ways of making existing digital advice and information for parents much more accessible, to help them in making choices and plans to support their child during pregnancy and beyond.
We are making parental leave more flexible and increasing the options for flexible working, so that mothers and fathers have more choice about how they plan and share caring responsibilities. From April 2011, if a mother returns to work before her maternity leave ends, the father can take the rest of the time and we have launched a consultation on plans to introduce a new system of flexible parental leave from 2015. The proposed system would give families an extra four weeks of paid leave, and more options as it would allow a parent to take leave in a number of different blocks, as well as allowing both parents to take the leave at the same time.
We are also consulting on plans to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, and on whether to give parents a longer period of time to take their unpaid parental leave, so that parents may be able to take it beyond the foundation years. The Government is also funding the Family and Parenting Institute’s Family Friendly scheme that is designed to help organisations become more responsive to the families who use their services, and their own staff.
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A new website for parents which includes information and advice for families in the foundation years
4Children, the national charity all about children and families.
Offers information and support in pregnancy, birth and early parenthood including antenatal groups.
Answers to common health questions about pregnancy
Information about home births from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Modern Workplaces Consultation on flexible parental leave, flexible working, working time regulations and equal pay.
Information for parents about pregnancy and birth.
Information about adoption, fostering and children in care.
Information on maternity and paternity leave, rights, and pay.
A range of publications and guidance on the Family Nurse Partnership Programme.
Information about expecting twins, triplets, or higher multiples.
Information about screening for mothers and babies during pregnancy
Pregnancy and parenting website
Home-Start provides a unique service for families - recruiting and training volunteers to support parents with young children at home.