In Australia, GPs (general practitioners) are doctors who have completed specialist medical training after their university medical degree. This training usually takes another three years. GPs know how to promote general health and treat many different health problems across all age groups.
In Australia, GPs who provide shared care must have extra training and qualifications. Shared care is where you see your GP for some antenatal appointments. These GPs have special agreements with birthing hospitals and other birth settings.
Your GP is your first important point of medical contact if you think you might be pregnant.
Your GP will arrange tests, check your health, ask you about any previous pregnancies and your medical history, discuss pregnancy care and refer you to a public hospital. Your GP can also discuss any lifestyle changes you need to make – for example, quitting smoking and alcohol during pregnancy.
If you live rurally, some of your regular antenatal care might be with your GP. GP shared care is also offered at many public hospitals. This is where you see your GP for some antenatal appointments. Later in pregnancy, your appointments will be at the hospital.
Your GP is usually the first person to go to if you have general health problems during pregnancy, like nausea and vomiting.
In some cases, particularly in rural areas, a GP might attend your baby’s birth. Check with your GP in early pregnancy about whether this could be an option for you.
Generally, your GP is the first person to go to if you have any medical concerns about yourself or your baby after you get home from hospital.
You also need to see your GP six weeks after the birth. In a high-risk pregnancy, this is especially important to prevent further problems. At the six-week visit, the GP checks your physical and emotional health, including recovery from birth, and checks your baby’s health. If you had a caesarean birth, your wound will need checking sooner for healing.
Your GP will also talk with you about breastfeeding, contraception, sexual health and urinary problems, as well as any other concerns you have.
If you’re interested in shared care, check that your GP offers this service. Or you could check for GPs who offer shared care in your area by contacting the antenatal clinic at your local hospital.
For your general care, it’s good to find a GP you feel comfortable with, so that you can get to know each other and talk openly. A GP who knows you can help you make good choices about your care.
Some GPs bulk bill. If they don’t, you pay the difference between their fee and the Medicare rebate.