Obstetricians and public hospital

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What is an obstetrician?

An obstetrician is a medical doctor with special training and skills in the health of mothers and babies during pregnancy, birth and straight after birth. This training usually takes an extra six years on top of a basic medical degree.

Obstetricians have special skills to manage the more difficult and complex medical aspects of pregnancy and childbirth.

In a public hospital, you might see:

  • an obstetric resident – a qualified doctor who is getting experience in obstetric care
  • an obstetric registrar – a qualified doctor who is training to be an obstetrician
  • a consultant obstetrician – a doctor who has completed specialist training.

If you’re in shared care, you’ll also see a GP who has done extra study in obstetrics.

An obstetrician’s role during pregnancy

Depending on your type of care, your health and your baby’s health, you might see an obstetrician at the hospital from time to time during your pregnancy. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you’re likely to see an obstetrician more often.

An obstetrician might:

  • send you for tests and scans
  • give information and talk about test and scan results with you
  • give information and talk about pregnancy care and birth
  • do checks of your health and your baby’s health
  • talk about any lifestyle changes you need to make – for example, using medications in pregnancy and quitting smoking.

An obstetrician’s role at the birth

If you have a low-risk pregnancy and everything goes smoothly at the birth, you probably won’t see an obstetrician.

But if you or your baby needs extra medical checks or care, an obstetrician will be there. The obstetrician will manage any problems and do procedures or operations. Obstetricians are trained to deal with complications and emergency situations – for example, emergency caesareans.

An obstetrician’s role after the birth

Depending on what happens at the birth, an obstetrician might check on you and your baby after the birth. You might need to see an obstetrician for your postnatal check-up six weeks after the birth to discuss your pregnancy and future pregnancies.

Choosing an obstetrician

You’re not likely to be able to choose the obstetrician who sees you during your pregnancy or birth. If you want to see a female doctor, you can ask if one is available, but this might not be possible.

If you’re having your baby in a public hospital using your private health fund, you can choose your private obstetrician if he or she has a special agreement with that hospital. See your GP in early pregnancy for a referral.

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