When you fall pregnant, you will need to think about where you'd like to have your baby. Your options will depend on where you live and what is available in your area. This page explains what you can expect from having your baby in a public or private hospital.
Where you give birth will also depend on whether your pregnancy and birth are expected to go smoothly, which is known as low risk. Most maternity units in larger hospitals cater for both low and high-risk pregnancies and births.
Why a hospital, not a birthing centre?
Both public and private hospitals seek to provide high-quality care for you and your baby. The advantage of a hospital is that:
- hospitals usually provide a range of options for pain relief, such as gas, water immersion, relaxation, TENS, epidurals and more — although check that the options you're thinking about are available at the hospital you're considering
- if things go wrong, hospital maternity units provide emergency maternity care, with specialist doctors, operating theatres and intensive care units available in all public and most private hospitals
- fees and expenses are low in a public hospital if you have a Medicare card
But hospitals have disadvantages, too, in that.
- a hospital room might not feel very relaxed and this might affect how you cope with labour
- you might not see the same midwives as those you saw during your pregnancy
- you might not be able to have as many people around you during labour as you would like
- if you're in a public hospital, you might be in a shared room after the birth
- giving birth in a private hospital can be expensive, although some costs may be covered by your private health insurance — it's a good idea to check your insurance coverage and any wait times that may apply
As soon as your pregnancy is confirmed, you can book into the maternity unit at your local public hospital or at a private hospital. Your first appointment will be between weeks 10 and 16 of your pregnancy, and you can discuss your options with the midwife or doctor.
If you choose to have your baby in a public hospital:
- you will generally go to their antenatal clinic for your pregnancy care, scans and blood tests
- you will usually be offered a range of options regarding who will provide your care; each unit is different and it's best to discuss this early in your pregnancy
If you have chosen care through an obstetrician:
- you will have your baby in one of the hospitals in which your doctor practises
- your scans and tests are usually done in their rooms and through private providers
- there will be extra costs involved
Most hospitals run birthing classes for expectant mothers and their support person. Maternity units understand the value of a support person during birth and encourage them to stay with you during labour.
After you have your baby
After birth, the midwives will support you in feeding and caring for your baby.
The length of stay in a hospital varies from one day to several days, depending on your recovery, whether you have had a caesarean birth, and whether you or your baby have any complications.
Having a baby is a natural part of life and hospitals are keen to get mothers and babies home so they are more relaxed, sleep better and are less likely to get an infection. Midwives can visit you at home to provide care for you and your baby including breastfeeding advice.
Visiting hours can vary between hospitals, so it's a good idea to check when you can have visitors.
You can call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, 7 days a week on 1800 882 436 to speak with a maternal child health nurse to find out more.
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Last reviewed: June 2020