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Public versus private care during pregnancy

6-minute read

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you might be wondering about the options for your care. You can choose who cares for you during your pregnancy.

There are some important questions that you may want to ask before deciding on public or private care such as:

  • Who would you like to care for you — a midwife, your doctor, an obstetrician or a combination of these healthcare professionals?
  • Where would you like to give birth — at hospital, in a birth centre or at home?
  • What kind of birth experience would you like?
  • Which type of care is better for you, your baby and your individual circumstances?
  • Do you want private care, and can you afford it?

Make sure that you explore all your options. Your options often depend on your health, where you live and what is available in your area.

You have the right to respectful maternity care that is culturally safe and helps you to make informed choices.

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 care provider.

What options do I have for care providers?

There are several choices for your care provider during your pregnancy.

Midwives work in partnership with you and specialise in caring for you during a normal, healthy pregnancy, labour, birth. After the birth they will continue to look after you and provide breastfeeding support. They are also trained to care for your newborn baby. Midwives can work in your home, community, clinics, private and public hospitals.

Obstetricians are doctors who specialise in medical care for you during pregnancy, birth and after the birth. Obstetricians offer care for everyone giving birth. They can: deliver babies in cases where there is high chance of complications and perform caesarean sections. Obstetricians work in both public and private hospitals. If you want to see a private obstetrician, you will need to find out which hospitals they practice at.

Your doctor might offer pregnancy care in collaboration with a hospital, especially in rural areas. This is called shared care.

Can I choose where I give birth?

You can choose where to give birth

Public hospital

Most public hospitals in Australia offer a range of care options. They will work with you to choose a model of care that best meets your needs. Options may include:

  • one-to-one midwifery care (midwifery group practice)
  • birth centre
  • homebirth
  • shared care with your doctor

You will usually attend the public hospital antenatal clinic and you may see a doctor or midwife during your visits (it may not always be the same person).

Public hospitals offer some private rooms, but you might be in a shared room after your birth. Your partner may not be able to stay overnight.

If you need to be seen by an obstetrician, you will see the doctor who is working in the hospital at that time.

Private hospitals

Private care will usually be through a private obstetrician of your choice. They may also have a midwife that works with them.

Your antenatal care is often provided in their own clinics, and they will attend your birth, usually at a private hospital. Many larger private hospitals also provide emergency maternity care.

You’ll need to book a private obstetrician and most private hospitals will be able to give you a list of obstetricians who practice there.

Birth centres

Birth centres offer care for healthy women who have a low-risk pregnancy and would like minimal medical intervention. They often feel more home-like than hospitals. Care is mainly provided by midwives.

Birth centres provide your antenatal care, either through the birth centre or through the hospital that they are attached to.

Most birth centres are located either in a public hospital or close to it. This means that if you have complications during the birth of your baby you can easily be transferred to the hospital.

In most birth centres, your partner can also stay overnight with you if a private room is available.

Planned home birth

This is an option available in some states if you have a low-risk pregnancy and live close to a hospital.

You’ll be cared for throughout your pregnancy, birth and after the birth by midwives.

What are the costs?

If you choose to have your baby at a public hospital, birth centre or public homebirth program, most of your pregnancy care costs are covered by Medicare.

If you choose to be looked after by a private healthcare provider, Medicare will only cover part of your costs.

If you have private health insurance, it might cover some or all of the costs of your obstetrician. You should check with your doctor, midwife, hospital, birth centre and health fund. Make sure you understand any out-of-pocket costs.

How do I find a health professional?

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby's service finder helps 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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2022

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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