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Maternity care in Australia

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If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you might wonder what care and support will be available to you. This article describes options for pregnancy care, where to give birth and the costs involved – so you can make the choices that are best for you.

What is antenatal care?

Antenatal care is the care you receive during pregnancy. If you have just found out you are pregnant, it’s important to see your doctor (GP) or midwife to start your antenatal care.

Antenatal appointments are important even if you are healthy and your pregnancy is going well.

They allow your midwife or GP to check your health and your baby’s health so they can find and treat any problems early on. These appointments are also a good opportunity for you to ask questions and talk about any concerns you have.

The first antenatal appointment

It’s best to make your first antenatal appointment when you are about 6 to 8 weeks pregnant. This appointment can be with a midwife, your GP or at a clinic or hospital.

At this appointment, the doctor or midwife will confirm that you are pregnant. They will do a thorough health check, including asking about your medical history and your family’s medical history. They will also give you important information about your pregnancy care.

They may also offer you tests to check for anything that may cause problems during pregnancy or labour – you can decide whether or not to have the tests.

Find out more here about the check-ups, tests and scans you will have during your antenatal visits.

You will have antenatal visits throughout your pregnancy. Most women who have uncomplicated pregnancies have 8 to 10 appointments.

Who will you see during your pregnancy?

There are 3 types of health professionals that could look after you during your pregnancy, depending on where you are having your baby and your health needs.

A midwife is specially trained to support and care for women during pregnancy, labour and birth. Midwives work in public and private hospitals, with obstetricians, and in the community. They help you to stay healthy in pregnancy. If there are no complications, they can help you to give birth too. Midwives also care for you and your baby in the first few weeks after the birth.

General practitioners (GPs) are medical doctors who promote general health and treat many different health problems. Often the GP will be the first health professional you see if you think you are pregnant.

Some GPs offer shared care, where you see your GP as well as midwives or obstetricians for your pregnancy care. If you live in a rural or remote area, your GP might provide all of your pregnancy care as well as deliver your baby.

An obstetrician is a doctor who is specially trained to look after women and babies during pregnancy, birth and straight after birth. You might choose to have an obstetrician look after you throughout your pregnancy and to deliver your baby. If you are having your baby in a public hospital, you might only see an obstetrician if there is a medical need.

Where can you have your baby?

There are several options for where you could have your baby. Most women will give birth in a public or private hospital, either in a labour ward or at a birthing centre.

Most hospitals offer antenatal classes as part of your care. It’s best to book into the hospital or birth centre as soon as your GP or midwife confirms your pregnancy.

Where you live may affect the options you have for where to give birth. For example, if you live in a rural or remote location your choices may be more limited.

It’s important to do your research and do what’s right for you. You can talk it through with your GP, or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.

Going to hospital

If it’s your first pregnancy, you may feel unsure about when you should go into hospital or the birth centre. The best thing to do is to call the hospital or birth centre for advice.

You will probably stay in hospital from one to several days. How long you stay will depend on your recovery, whether you have had a caesarean birth, and whether you or your baby have any complications.

How much does it cost?

The cost of having a baby will vary depending if you have your baby in the public or private system. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

In Australia, pregnancy care in a public hospital or birth centre is free because it is covered by Medicare, which covers Australian citizens and some visitors to Australia. But you won’t be able to choose your doctor or midwife.

In the private system, you can choose your doctor, but you will need to pay for the care or take out private health insurance. Medicare and your health fund will cover some of the costs of a private hospital stay, but you may still have to pay extra fees (known as 'out-of-pocket' costs).

Be sure to check that your private health insurance covers maternity care and if there is a waiting time before you can claim.

It can be difficult to understand the costs of different care options. Talk to your doctor, hospital or health fund if you are unsure, or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby.

Support and advice

For information, advice and support during your pregnancy:

Last reviewed: May 2019

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