Maternity services in remote Northern Territory
If you are pregnant and live in a remote part of the Northern Territory, you can use this page to find out how to get care and support during your pregnancy, labour and birth. You’ll also find links to websites where you can get more information to suit your individual circumstances.
Your choice of caregivers
In remote parts of the Northern Territory, depending on where you live, you can often choose the type of health professional or team you would like to care for you during your pregnancy. You may need to travel to a hospital in a regional centre for the birth. You might also have three choices:
- Publicly funded midwives work in Alice Springs, Darwin, Tennant Creek, Gove and Katherine. If you live in a remote area, you might be able to get pregnancy care in the local community from these midwives and then travel to a hospital late in your pregnancy to wait for the birth. Some public hospital midwifery group practices also offer home birth services.
- Your doctor might offer 'shared maternity care' along with the midwives and doctors at a local clinic or hospital.
- Care by a private obstetrician (a specialist doctor) is available in Darwin and Alice Springs.
It is best for you and your baby to have the same caregiver throughout your pregnancy, birth and early parenting. Some public hospitals offer continuity of care programs based on using the same midwife or team of midwives (such as a midwifery group practice) to care for you.
Options for place of birth
Depending on where you live you might be able to choose the place where you give birth. Weigh up the decision with your partner, family and doctor or other health professional. There are 4 options:
- In public hospitals in Darwin, Alice Springs, Gove, Tennant Creek and Katherine, you can receive maternity care from hospital midwives as well as doctors if needed. It is usually free, with costs covered by Medicare. In some hospitals, your doctor may be able to share the care with hospital staff. Public hospitals in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek also provide private care, which means you can choose your own doctor or private obstetrician to care for you. However, you might need private health insurance to cover some of the costs.
- Darwin Private Hospital offers similar services, but you’ll need private health insurance in place before you become pregnant to cover some of the cost.
- Birth centres in Darwin and Alice Springs are suitable for women with healthy low-risk pregnancies. The costs are covered by Medicare. You can be transferred to hospital during labour if you’d like or if there are problems.
- A home birth may be suitable for women with healthy low-risk pregnancies. However, publicly funded home births are available only in Darwin or Alice Springs. Find out more here on the home birth services available in those centres.
Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
Birthing on Country
Birthing on Country is a program that encourages health services to offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women the chance to have a culturally appropriate birth. That will mean different things to different women in different parts of Australia. Ask your local midwife, Aboriginal health service, hospital, birthing centre or primary health network what is available where you live.
Strong women, strong babies, strong culture program
If you are an Aboriginal woman from Canteen Creek, Utopia or Yuendumu, you can access the Strong women, strong babies, strong culture program. The program supports traditional ways of working with women during pregnancy. For further information, call (08) 8955 6106.
Travelling long distances to give birth?
If you live in a remote area of the Northern Territory, you may be able to access pregnancy care in your community until you are 37 weeks pregnant. Ask your doctor or your local community health clinic. At 37 weeks, you will need to travel to a hospital to await the birth of your baby. Depending on where you live, your local community clinic will arrange your travel to and accommodation in one of the following hospitals:
If you need to travel a long distance from home to access care, you might be able to claim back some of your travel and accommodation expenses through the Patient Assistance Travel Scheme (PATS).
More information is available, whether you live in Central Australia, the Top End or remote areas of the territory.
At any time during your pregnancy, you can call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 or try video call to speak face-to-face with one of our maternal child health nurses. Video call is available 7am to midnight (AEST), 7 days a week and is free of charge. To find out more, visit our video call page.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: December 2021