In this short video, mums share their experience of pregnancy and birth care in a public hospital setting.
Most women in Australia have their babies in public hospitals. Public maternity care in Australia is a safe, affordable option that offers most birth choices. In a public hospital, most of the cost of your care is covered by Medicare , if you’re eligible.
You might have a few different options for pregnancy care at public hospitals. Your choice determines who cares for you and where. It’s a good idea to discuss your options with your doctor or midwife early in pregnancy. Some options might not be available, depending on the hospital, where you live and your health.
The main pregnancy care options include clinic care, midwives clinic, shared care, midwifery group practice and team midwifery care.
Your antenatal care happens in a public hospital outpatient clinic or in the community, depending on the hospital you attend. You go to the same hospital for the birth and postnatal care. You might see different midwives and doctors at each visit.
Your antenatal care happens in a public hospital midwives clinic. This is where midwives care for women who are having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. If any complications happen, they refer you to doctors at the hospital. You get to know the midwife or midwives during pregnancy. At the birth, the midwives and doctors on duty in the birthing unit care for you. After the birth, midwives on the postnatal ward care for you. Many hospitals can offer home visits by a midwife if you go home early (usually before 48 hours).
This is an arrangement between a public hospital and local practitioner (GP, obstetrician or midwife ). You get some care from your local practitioner, and you also go to the hospital in early and late pregnancy.
Some women like this option because they’re familiar with their GP, and the care is usually close to home. If English is your second language, your GP might speak your first language or use an interpreter and know about your cultural needs.
This is where a small group of public hospital midwives care for you during your pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal period. Most of your care is given by one midwife, called a primary midwife. Your pregnancy visits might be at the hospital or in the community. Midwifery group practice is more likely to be available in city areas.
With this option, you’ll become familiar with the midwives during your pregnancy, labour and birth, even if your birth plans change – for example, you have a caesarean. The big benefit of this is that you can develop a relationship with a midwife or midwives who you will know at the birth and after baby is born. This is known as ‘continuity of care’. Other benefits for mum and baby include higher breastfeeding success and fewer birth interventions.
Team midwifery care is similar to midwifery group practice. But, instead of having one midwife giving most of your care, you have a team of up to eight midwives who care for you during pregnancy, labour, birth and after birth. Team midwifery care is more likely to be available in city areas.
The midwife will guide you through what to do when you’re in labour and when to come to hospital. Midwives will care for you when you get there. If you have any complications, a doctor will help with any procedures or operations.
Most women stay in a public hospital for about 1-2 days after a vaginal birth, and around 3-4 days after a caesarean birth. But if you and your baby are well and you’re happy to go home, your stay could be less than 24 hours. A midwife might visit you at home.
It’s possible to be a private patient in a public hospital. This will lead to extra costs. If you’re interested in this option, call the public hospital and ask if they have a private patient liaison officer that you can speak to.
If you think you might be pregnant, see your GP as soon as possible to start your antenatal care.
Depending on where you live, your health and your pregnancy history, you might have a few public hospital options. Your GP will discuss these and refer you to the hospital. This is usually the closest one to your home. Some hospitals accept bookings only from the local area, because of high demand.
Soon after your first GP appointment, you need to call the hospital antenatal clinic to book in your first appointment. If you need help to do this, you could ask a family member, friend, multicultural health worker, case manager, Aboriginal Health Worker or health professional to help you.
If you live rurally, you might need to go to a larger regional hospital for the birth.
Other things to think about are:
Knowing your options and talking about them with your midwife or doctor could help you feel more prepared and happier about your pregnancy and birth experience in the long run.