HealthAgenda

Pregnancy & Birth

Choosing your pregnancy healthcare team

When you’re newly pregnant you’ll need to make decisions about your care during your pregnancy and for the birth. Here’s how it works.  

Carmel Sparke
July 2018

From the moment you discover you’re pregnant, you start on a steep learning curve. As well as coming to grips with your changing body, you’ll need to work out who’ll be caring for you over the next 9 months.

Between doctors, midwives and doulas, the choices can seem overwhelming. Your decision will also depend on where you live, how your pregnancy is going and whether you have private health insurance.

Here’s a who’s who of the healthcare professionals who can guide you from those 2 lines on your pregnancy test to the day you finally meet your baby.

Your GP

Your doctor is a good first port of call and a great resource to help advise on the next steps in your antenatal (before birth) care, including confirming your pregnancy and providing an approximate due date.

If you opt for shared care (through the public system), your GP will continue to play a big role in your pregnancy. They’ll work with the hospital you book into to give birth.

You’ll visit your GP for most of your routine monthly, then fortnightly pregnancy checkups. You’ll go to the hospital for your scans, tests and a 28-week appointment with the hospital midwives.

GPs can also have shared care arrangement with an obstetrician in the private system.

Find one: GPs who participate in shared care with an obstetrician or hospital have had extra training in obstetrics. Visit The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for a list of these GPs.

Cost: If your GP doesn’t bulk-bill, you’ll pay the difference between the doctor’s fee and the Medicare rebate for each of your doctor’s appointments.

Midwives

For many women, midwives are the healthcare professionals they see most during pregnancy and the birth of their baby. They’re specialist registered nurses with training in pregnancy, as well as labour, birth and caring for you and your newborn afterwards.

Midwives work in a range of settings, from public hospital maternity units, to birthing centres, private hospitals and as private midwives.

If you opt for midwife-led care at a hospital or birth centre, you’ll be seeing midwives for most of your hospital visits, as well as labour and delivery. The midwife will work with doctors during the birth, and an obstetrician will take a more active role if it’s a complicated birth.

Find one: To check whether your preferred hospital has a birth centre, midwife-led care or if you’re considering a private midwife, visit Midwives Australia

Cost: At a public hospital your midwife appointments are free, but you’re likely to have to pay for scans, pathology tests and childbirth education classes. In the public system you may not see the same midwife at each visit. For private healthcare, costs can vary.

Obstetricians

Obstetricians specialise in medical care for you during pregnancy and birth if you have risk factors for, or experience, complications. Some private obstetricians also offer pregnancy and birth care for low-risk healthy women.

Obstetricians work in the private and public hospital systems. In the public system, you won’t be able to choose your doctor.

If you go for a private obstetrician, a midwife will still be part of your care. Some obstetricians will have a private midwife who’ll see you at your first appointment, and a midwife will be there at the birth to help deliver your baby.

Find one: Ask your GP, friends and family for their recommendations or find one through Healthshare. You’ll need a referral from your GP before your first appointment.

Cost: If you go public, your care is free. If you go private you’ll be able to choose your obstetrician and will pay the difference between what the doctor charges for each appointment and the Medicare rebate. As with the public system, you’ll still need to pay for outpatient scans and tests etc.

Private obstetricians also charge a pregnancy management fee, usually between $3,000 and $5,000.

As an HCF member, you’ll get the best value if you find an obstetrician who participates in our No-gap or Known-gap scheme. You can find one through Healthshare. We also provide cost estimates for private obstetricians using the HCF gap arrangement for vaginal and caesarean births.

Doulas

While a doula doesn’t provide medical services, they can offer advice and information through your pregnancy and during labour. Doulas can help you prepare for the birth and be with you on delivery day to support you and your partner. Some doula packages include after-birth visits too.

Find one: Look for a doula who has done a training program, such as with the Australian Doula College.

Cost: Usually from $800–$2,000, depending on their level of training and experience. Doulas don’t qualify for Medicare or health insurance rebates.

Antenatal Classes

Not strictly part of your health team, but a useful addition, antenatal classes are many and varied. Typically, they’re offered by your hospital to familiarise you with labour, pain relief, breastfeeding, postnatal care and more. Plenty of other private organisations provide them too, in formats to suit your lifestyle, whether that’s a weekend course or evening classes.

Find one: Ask at your hospital or GP for a list of antenatal classes in your area.

Birth Beat offers on online course you can complete in your own time at home.

For the men, check out Beer & Bubs

Costs: Fees vary and may be covered by your private health insurance, depending on your level of cover. Learn more about what you may be able to claim for.

Birth Beat

Birth Beat is a 100% online childbirth education course. Delivered by a registered midwife and HCF-recognised provider, it’s packed with tips to prepare you for birth and beyond.

Planning a baby?

We're here to help you every step of the way. Browse our cover options and find out about programs and resources to support you during your pregnancy.

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