You’re pregnant! congratulations, there’s much to celebrate and a lot to consider and decide. One of your first tasks will be to make a choice in regards to your and your baby’s care during pregnancy and where and under whose care you’d like to give birth.

There's a load to consider and it can be a minefield to navigate, so let’s take a look at some of the lurks and perks that both public and private maternity care can offer. There’ll be plenty of other considerations though too and loads of questions to ask yourself before you decide what’s best.

Perhaps have a think about the following first:

  • What care is available in my area?
  • What can I afford? Does this give me access to the options of pain relief I might want?
  • If I hope to labour ‘au naturale’ - which form of care will support me best?
  • Do I want access to an obstetrician?
  • Do I have a particular birthing philosophy and which option of care will support this best?
  • Would I prefer midwives looking after me?
  • Would I prefer to continue my care with my family GP?
  • Would I like access to medical intervention?

Once you’ve got some of these things nailed down, you’ll need to ask your potential list of maternity providers what they offer and will they align with your choices.

**Let’s talk public maternity care

There are four types of maternity care offered in the public setting for a low-risk/‘normal’ pregnancy:

1. Shared care - An option of care where the public hospital and your GP or a midwife linked to the hospital, share the care of your pregnancy. The GP/midwife visit is usually not held at the hospital. These visits are typically Medicare-covered.

2. A team of Midwives care - This care is managed by a team of midwives. You would typically see each of these midwives through your pregnancy; one of whom would be made available at the time of your birth. 

3. Birth Suite / Family Birth Centre - This care places a high value on low-intervention during labour and birth and typically mums head home within 24 hours after delivery. Some hospitals have a separate birth suite to facilitate the care of these mums, but not all do. These are run by a team of midwives, with access to an obstetrician and medicalised care should the labour or birth become more complex.

4. Group practice care - sometimes referred to as Caseload Midwifery - Care is provided by two midwives throughout the pregnancy and both of these midwives remain on-call for your labour/birth. In some instances, Group Practice is selected for a homebirth.

Perks - Public maternity care

  • It’s FREEEE - Expenses are covered by Medicare.
  • low intervention is afforded but medicalised back-up is still possible.
  • Access to facilities for sick infants and high-risk pregnancies.
  • Access to a broad range of social services - nutritionists, physiotherapists etc.

Lurks - Public maternity care 

  • If birthing in a hospital, you are likely to share a room in the maternity ward.
  • Your choice of male/female carer may not always be available.
  • You may not always see the same midwife or doctor each visit.
  • You may wait longer for your appointments.
  • Fewer days stay in hospital post-birth ie. 2-3 for a vaginal birth (this could be a perk for some!).
  • Sometimes maternity ward and facilities are more dated.

Let’s talk Private maternity care

An obstetrician is a medical doctor with skill and special accreditation in pregnancy, birth and post-birth. Their training encompasses a medical degree and an extra six years training on top of this.  

As a private patient, your primary maternity carer will be an obstetrician. You’ll usually give birth in a private hospital, but sometimes an obstetrician can maintain the care of a mum and her baby in a public hospital too if that’s where she chooses to birth.  Regardless of the place of birth, there will be costs associated with choosing an obstetrician, which you will be responsible to pay.

*There is a very small albeit new and growing list of private health insurers who offer No Gap care if you birth at particular hospitals, under particular obstetric carers.  If you have private health insurance, check your insurance benefits for a possible list of obstetricians and private hopsitals participating in this scheme.

Perks - Private maternity care

  • Your choice of obstetrician will provide all your care throughout pregnancy, birth and post-birth.
  • Your obstetrician’s practice may be closer to home and more convenient.
  • Appointments are usually short and sweet (unless OB/GYN is called to a birth).
  • A longer hospital stay (usually 3-5 days for vaginal delivery)
  • Receiving most specialised care.
  • The facilities and rooms may be more modern / aesthetically pleasing.

Lurks - Private maternity care 

  • Your obstetrician will (in most cases) cost and there will be out of pocket expenses.
  • There will be most likely be hidden costs too: blood tests, ultrasounds, hospital services, anaesthesioligists. 

Midwife in private practice option of care:

You might choose to employ a Midwife In Private Practice (MIPP). This would mean one midwife (of your choosing) would care for you right through pregnancy, birth and post-birth. These midwives offer prenatal education, care and labour and birth support at home. The scope of one MIPP to another varies, so google your options for the best fit.

There is lots to consider, but you’ve got this. Read up and get the information you need so you can be confident in your choices 😊

Hugs into the ether...


** This information is accurate for Australian residents. If you live in another country, please visit the Links page to find the best and most accurate information for your area.