Having a baby in hospital
What are my options for where I have my baby?
When you fall pregnant, you will need to think about where you'd like to have your baby. You can choose:
- your care provider
- where to give birth
- whether to use public or private healthcare
Your options will depend on where you live and what is available in your area. Where you give birth will also depend on whether your pregnancy and birth are expected to go smoothly. This is known as being a low-risk pregnancy.
Most larger hospitals cater for both low and high-risk pregnancies and births. Some also offer support for home birth. This page explains what you can expect when you have your baby in a public or private hospital.
In both public and private hospitals, you have the right to: respectful maternity care that is culturally safe and enables informed choices.
Make sure that you explore all your birthing options. It’s ok to change your mind - find the care that’s right for you. It’s important to have a positive, trusting relationship with your care provider.
Why choose a hospital birth?
Both public and private hospitals provide high-quality care for you and your baby. The advantages of giving birth in a hospital include:
- Most hospitals in Australia offer range of care options. They will work with you to choose a model of care that best meets your needs.
- Hospitals usually provide different options for pain relief, such as: gas, water immersion, relaxation, TENS, epidurals and more. Always check that the options you're thinking about are available at the hospital you're considering.
- If things go wrong, and you require more complex care, hospital maternity units are able to provide emergency maternity care. There are specialist doctors, operating theatres and intensive care units available in all large public and many private hospitals.
- Fees and expenses are low in a public hospital if you have a Medicare card.
- In some public hospitals, you can choose to have your care provided by a small group of midwives. This is called ‘team midwifery care’. It is mainly for low-risk pregnancies. Check with your local hospital to see if they offer this option.
- You can choose to see a private obstetrician or midwife during your pregnancy and birth.
Disadvantages of giving birth in a hospital include:
- The 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. It’s a good idea to check which costs are covered by your private health insurance.
Private hospitals have a higher rate of birth interventions and caesarean sections than public hospitals.
When should I book in to the hospital?
As soon as your pregnancy is confirmed, you can book into the maternity unit at the hospital of your choice. Your first appointment will most likely be between weeks 10 and 16 of your pregnancy. You can talk to the midwife or doctor about the care options that might best suit you. Even if you are planning a home birth, you should still attend a hospital booking visit.
It’s a good idea to start to think about the kinds of things you might like to take to hospital. These might include: a favourite pillow, music and other personal items to help you feel more comfortable.
Can I have my antenatal care at the hospital?
If you choose to have your baby in a public hospital:
- You may go to the hospital antenatal clinic for your pregnancy care, scans and blood tests. Or your pregnancy care may be shared by your local doctor (GP) and the hospital, with tests done in the community.
- You will see a midwife or a doctor at clinic visits. You might not always see the same doctor or midwife during your pregnancy or delivery.
- You will usually be offered a range of care options. Each unit is different and it's best to discuss the options early in your pregnancy.
If you have chosen care through a private obstetrician:
- You will have your baby in one of the hospitals where your doctor practises.
- Your scans and tests are usually done in their rooms and through private providers.
- There will be extra costs involved.
- If you want to give birth at a certain hospital, check which private obstetricians practise at that hospital
Generally, midwives will look after you during labour and after the birth.
Your options regarding how you give birth, who can attend, and the services available vary according to each hospital.
Many people make sure they have family and friends available to support them when giving birth. It’s important to discuss with your maternity unit the options for support people during your hospital stay.
Most hospitals run birthing classes for you and your support person.
What happens after I’ve had my baby?
After your birth, the midwives will care for you. They will support you to feed and caring for your baby.
How long you will spend in hospital can vary from a few hours to several days. This depends on your recovery, whether you have had a caesarean birth, and whether you or your baby have any complications.
Some people will choose to go home early after their birth, other people would prefer to stay in hospital longer. Private hospitals generally allow a longer stay than public hospitals.
If you go home early midwives will usually visit you at home. They will provide care for you and your baby including breastfeeding advice. Most hospitals offer at least one home visit from a midwife. The hospital will then hand over to community care such as your child health nurse and local doctor.
Visiting hours can vary between hospitals, so it's a good idea to check when you can have visitors.
Where can I get more information and advice?
Use Pregnancy, Birth and Baby's service finder to help you locate: your nearest doctor, obstetrician, maternal child health nurse and other health professionals across Australia.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: August 2022