If you are having a baby, you might see a lot of different healthcare professionals. Most women have a choice whether to see a general practitioner (GP), a midwife, an obstetrician or a combination of those. It depends on what you want, and where you want to give birth.
General practitioners (GPs) are doctors trained in many different aspects of healthcare. You would normally see a GP when you find out you are pregnant. In some cases, you can have your GP as your main care provider in a ‘shared care’ arrangement with a midwife or an obstetrician.
Some GPs, especially in rural areas, are able to care for women right through their pregnancy and deliver the baby. But if your GP can’t, then you’ll need 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 in partnership with women to provide support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and after the birth. They often run antenatal classes. They 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, but not always, nurses as well.
Midwives can work in homes, community, clinics and hospitals. If you want to birth at home, you will probably need to find a private midwife. Publicly funded homebirth programs are uncommon in Australia.
If you choose to have your baby at a public hospital, you would see a midwife or a doctor during your outpatient 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’. 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.
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 higher potential for things to go wrong. They can perform caesarean sections.
Some women choose to have a private obstetrician see them during their 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 main healthcare provider, where to give birth, and whether to use public or private healthcare. If you are looking at private healthcare, find out what the expected out-of-pocket costs are from the healthcare provider and your health insurance provider, if you have one. You can check if your healthcare provider is registered at Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.
Finding a health professional
Many women make sure they have family and friends available as support. Some women choose to hire a doula for providing emotional support during the pregnancy and birth. Doulas are not healthcare professionals so they do not provide medical care — a doula provides information and practical and emotional care during pregnancy and birth, and sometimes in the weeks after the baby is born.
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Last reviewed: December 2019