If you are having a baby, you might see a lot of different healthcare professionals. You can choose who cares for you during your pregnancy. This may be your doctor, a midwife, an obstetrician (a doctor who looks after pregnant people) or a combination of these. It depends on what you want and where you want to give birth.
Your doctor, also known as a general practitioner (GP), is trained in many different aspects of healthcare. You would normally see your doctor when you find out you are pregnant.
In some cases, your doctor will be your main care provider.
Some doctors, especially in rural areas, are able to care for women right through their pregnancy and deliver the baby.
Other doctors will have a ‘shared care’ arrangement with a midwife or an obstetrician.
If this service isn’t available, you may choose to visit the midwives or doctors at the hospital or birthing centre at certain stages and for the birth.
Midwives are health professionals who work with you to provide support, care and advice during your pregnancy. They often run antenatal classes. They will also look after you during your labour and after the birth.
Midwives are also trained to care for your newborn baby.
Midwives must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia to practise in Australia. They are often, qualified Registered nurses as well.
Midwives can work in homes, the community, clinics and hospitals.
If you choose to have your baby at a public hospital, you would see a midwife or a doctor during your clinic visits. You might not always see the same doctor or midwife during your pregnancy.
In some public hospitals you can choose to have your care provided by a small group of midwives — ‘team midwifery care’, this is mainly for low-risk pregnancies. You might be able to see the same midwife during and after your pregnancy. If you need to be seen by a doctor, it would be one who is working in the hospital. Check with your hospital to see if they offer this arrangement.
If you want to give birth at home, it will usually be with a private midwife. Some public hospitals offer publicly funded homebirth programs.
Obstetricians are doctors with specialised training in obstetrics (medical care before, during and after childbirth). Most hospital maternity units will have an obstetrician who is responsible for this service. Obstetricians usually deliver babies in cases where there is a risk for things to go wrong. They can perform caesarean sections.
You may choose to see a private obstetrician during your pregnancy and birth. If you want to give birth at a certain hospital, check which private obstetricians can practise at that hospital.
You can choose your care provider, where you give birth, and whether to use public or private healthcare.
Medicare covers most of the costs of a public hospital birth.
If you are considering private healthcare, make sure you understand the out-of-pocket costs. You can check if your healthcare provider is registered at Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.
Finding a health professional
Make sure that you explore all your options. It’s ok to change your mind and find the care that’s right for you. It’s important to have a positive, trusting relationship with your healthcare provider.
You have the right to respectful maternity care that is culturally safe and enables informed choices.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Many women make sure they have family and friends available to support them when giving birth.
Some women choose to hire a doula to provide emotional support, information and practical care during pregnancy and birth and in the weeks after the baby is born. Doulas do not provide medical care.
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: June 2022