Birth Options

BIRTH OPTIONS

Having a baby is a normal part of life.  We should all be able to choose the type of care that we wish to receive during our time of pregnancy, giving birth and after the birth.  There are several birthing options available when it comes to your caregiver and your chosen place of birth.  These options may vary from country to country, so it’s wise to check out what is available in your local area.

The following is a list of some of the possible options you may have available.  Decide which option suits your needs the most and then see if you can find something similar in your local area.  Shop around until you find what works best for you.  Having a baby is one of the most special events in your life.  It is therefore essential that you feel comfortable and at ease with your caregivers and your surrounding environment.

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Private Hospital with a Private Obstetrician

If you choose private care in a private hospital, the obstetrician of your choice will care you for throughout your pregnancy.  They will attend your birth and usually do follow-up care postnatally with you.  You will have a private room with an en-suite bathroom.  You can expect to be cared for in the following way:

  • Your GP will refer you to an obstetrician of your choice who will see you in private practise for care during your pregnancy.
  • You will usually be referred to parent education classes at the hospital where you intend to have your baby.
  • Midwives will assist you with your labour, but your obstetrician will be available when required.
  • Discharge is usually between two and five days after the birth.
  • A postnatal check-up will be arranged with your obstetrician.
  • Cost: Obstetricians fees vary considerably, and are partly covered by Medicare (in Australia). Hospital costs vary widely and the level of cover provided by health insurance depends on your own plan or table.  Any other specialists you may require, such as an anaesthetist or paediatrician will also charge fees.  Check with your doctor and health fund before you make your final choice.

Public Hospital with a Private Obstetrician

You can choose to have an Obstetrician of your choice but go to a public hospital if you wish, as long as the Obstetrician works there, or has visiting rights.  In this case the same will apply as for a private hospital with your caregiver.  However, at a public hospital you may not get a private room after the birth.  Most rooms are on a share basis, as well as the bathroom facilities.  This is a slightly cheaper option if you are not on top hospital cover with your health fund.

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Public Hospital Care

If you choose public hospital care, midwives and doctors who specialise in obstetrics at the hospital will care for you during your pregnancy.  You will give birth in the hospital and you may have to share a room with one or more other new mothers during your stay.  You can expect to be cared for in the following way:

  • Your GP will refer you to one of the obstetric teams at the hospital.  During your pregnancy, care will be provided at the outpatient clinic.  You may see a different doctor or midwife at each visit.
  • Your GP or the hospital will tell you where your nearest parent education classes are held.  These may be at the hospital or a local health centre.
  • Midwives will assist you during labour, although doctors specialising in birth and newborns will be available if you need them.  Your care may involve medical students and student midwives.
  • Some hospitals may offer choices such as family birth suites or early discharge programs.
  • Discharge is usually between two and five days after the birth.
  • Postnatal care is provided in your home, by a community or hospital midwife and you need to return to your GP for a medical check-up after six weeks.
  • Public hospital care is available to people with Medicare cover.
  • Cost: none, although you will have to pay for extras such as telephone or television hire.

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Shared Care

Shared care is an arrangement between your doctor and the hospital to care for you.  During your pregnancy you go to your own GP on a regular basis, visiting the hospital more frequently towards the end of your pregnancy.  You give birth in hospital, and whether you share a room or not may depend on if you are a public or private patient.  You can expect to be cared for in the following way:

  • If your pregnancy is considered to be low risk, the antenatal care can be shared between your GP and the hospital.  This can be either a public or a private hospital.
  • Your GP will generally see you during the first 35 weeks of pregnancy, and refer you to a hospital obstetric team for a first visit before 20 weeks, with weekly visits from week 36. Your GP will write to the hospital explaining your preferred care plan.  You give birth in the hospital.
  • Your GP or the hospital will tell you where your nearest parent education classes are held.  These may be at the hospital or at a local health centre.
  • Midwives will assist you during labour, although doctors specialising in birth and newborns will generally be available if you need them.  Some GPs have visiting rights to various hospitals, in which case they may be there to assist with the birth.
  • Discharge is usually between two and five days after the birth.
  • Postnatal care is provided in your home by a community or hospital midwife and you need to return to your GP for a medical check-up after six weeks.
  • Cost:  Medicare will cover you for shared care.  Costs will depend on whether your doctor bulk bills, and what type of hospital care you choose (see Private care).  Check with your doctor and your health fund before you make your final choice.

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Birth Centre

Birth centres offer a home like environment for women who have a low risk pregnancy.  Birth Centres are available at a few public and private hospitals.  There are also some freestanding Birth Centres.  During your pregnancy midwives will care for you.  The room you give birth in is the room you stay in and, in some cases, your partner can stay overnight with you.  There is a high demand for places, so you should book early in your pregnancy.  You can expect to be cared for in the following way:

  • You generally need to be referred to the Birth Centre by your GP.
  • During your pregnancy, the team at the Birth Centre will provide your care.  The primary caregivers are midwives, supported by a team of community GPs.  During your pregnancy, you will meet most members of the team, and so will probably know whoever is on duty during your labour.
  • Discharge is usually 24hrs after birth.  If a medical problem arises at any stage during the pregnancy, labour or afterwards, you or your baby will be transferred to the hospital.
  • A community midwife provides postnatal care in your home and you need to return to your GP for a medical check-up after six weeks.
  • Cost:  This will depend on whether it is a public or a privately owned Birth Centre and whether you are a public or private patient (see private care).  Check with your health fund before you make your final choice.

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Homebirth with a Private Midwife

If you choose a homebirth, the midwife of your choice will care you for during your pregnancy.  The midwife will be with you during the labour and birth in your own home.  You can expect to be cared for in the following way:

  • You can have your baby at home, with other family members, siblings and friends present.
  • If your pregnancy is considered to be low risk, and you are comfortable about having a homebirth, you can choose a midwife in private practise who will take care of you throughout your pregnancy and birth, and after the birth.
  • You must make a hospital booking in case any problems arise.
  • Cost: Medicare does not cover the cost of a midwife in private practise or homebirths.  Some health funds will give a refund.  Check with your health fund before you make your final choice.  There is also the possibility that you may need a hospital birth, which may add to the cost if you are a private patient (see Private care).

Homebirth with a Community Midwifery Programme

Some cities offer a government-funded programme for homebirth.  This is free of charge usually, except for a small booking fee.  Your care will be exactly the same as for a homebirth with a private midwife, except you will need to choose your midwife from those that are available and are linked in with the programme.  There is a big demand for this option (& limited places), so you need to book in as soon as possible to get a place.  You must have a low risk pregnancy to qualify.

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