What does your GP do in pregnancy care?
- Your doctor, also known as a general practitioner (GP), is likely to be the first health professional you see when you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant
- Your GP can talk to you about your options for pregnancy care and the birth.
- The choices you make, and the facilities available where you live, will determine the role your doctor will play.
- Some GPs offer ‘shared care’, where you can see your GP for some of your routine pregnancy care visits instead of seeing an obstetrician or hospital antenatal clinic.
- Medicare covers the cost of bulk-billed GP visits, but many GPs also charge a ‘gap’ fee.
What is a GP?
A general practitioner (also known as a GP) is a doctor. Your GP is likely to be the first health professional you see when you become pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant. Your GP can talk to you about your options for pregnancy care and the birth. The choices you make and the facilities available where you live will determine the role your GP will play. In some cases, your GP can attend the birth.
What happens at my first antenatal GP appointment?
You should visit your GP if you find out, or suspect, that you are pregnant. They will be able to confirm your pregnancy and estimate when your baby is due (the 'due date').
It’s best to first visit your GP and then get a referral to a hospital, obstetrician, birth centre or private midwife.
While such referrals aren't always essential, they can provide useful information for the person or centre caring for you during your pregnancy, and will encourage the sharing of information from that person or centre back to your GP.
Planning your antenatal care and birth
Antenatal care refers to the care you will receive during your pregnancy. At your first antenatal appointment, you can talk to your GP about your options for antenatal care and the birth. For example, you may be able to choose to have your baby in a public hospital, private hospital, birth centre or at home.
Your choices usually depend on:
- where you live (for example, whether you live in a city or in a rural area)
- whether you have private health insurance and wish to choose your own obstetrician
- your age, health and beliefs
Your choice will affect whether your regular check-ups and scans during your pregnancy are done by your GP or by a midwife or obstetrician.
Monitoring your health and your baby's health
Your GP will check your overall health and ask you about your medical history. They will want to know about any health issues that could affect you or your baby.
They will probably offer you the first of many routine tests done in pregnancy, including:
- blood tests to check for anaemia and blood disorders
- blood tests to check if you have been exposed to certain infectious diseases than can be dangerous in pregnancy
- a dating ultrasound scan to estimate your due date, if you aren’t sure how far along you are in your pregnancy
Your doctor can also help you make lifestyle changes that are good for your baby. Stopping smoking or drinking alcohol, for example, will help keep you and your baby healthy.
What is my GP’s role in pregnancy care?
Some GPs can be involved in antenatal care in a ‘shared care arrangement’. This may be more common in rural areas. In shared care, you can have some of your antenatal appointments at your doctor’s clinic, some at a public hospital, or with your obstetrician. Your GP can advise you on the options available to you, based on your situation and the services available in your area. Shared care can be more convenient and cheaper for you, especially if you see a private obstetrician.
GPs are not usually involved in the antenatal care of your pregnancy if you are going to a birth centre or are planning a home birth, although they will still be involved in other aspects of your health. Some GPs, however, have done extra training in obstetrics and are known as GP obstetricians — they can provide antenatal care and be with you for the birth.
What’s my GP's role after the birth?
It's a good idea to see your GP at around 6 weeks after the birth . They will check your physical and emotional wellbeing and also your baby's health.
At this age, your baby is due for vaccinations. You can choose to get the vaccinations at the same appointment as your 6-week post-natal check, if you wish. Vaccines for your child are free under the National Immunisation Program, but your GP may charge a fee for your visit. Some local councils run free, regular vaccination clinics — check your council website.
You should also see your GP at any time if you have any concerns about your health or your baby's health.
What questions should I ask my GP?
It is important to ask questions, especially if you don’t understand or don’t remember what someone in your health team has said, or if need more information.
Use the healthdirect Question Builder to help you form a list of questions to ask your GP, obstetrician or other health professional. You can print this off and take it with you.
What training has a GP had?
A GP has done 3 to 4 years of additional specialist training in general practice after graduation. Some GPs specialise further in obstetrics (medical care during pregnancy and before and after birth) and can offer antenatal care.
How much does a GP cost?
If your GP bulk bills, your visits are free. Otherwise, you will pay a 'gap' amount. For example, if your doctor charges you $70 for a standard appointment, Medicare will pay $38.75 (called a 'rebate'), and you will pay $31.25 (the gap, often called an 'out of pocket' payment).
If you don't have a Medicare card, you will need to pay the full fee.
Resources and support
The healthdirect Service Finder can help you find GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services near you.
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: December 2022