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What does your GP do in pregnancy care?

4-minute read

Your doctor, also known as a general practitioner (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. Your choices, and the facilities available where you live, will determine the role your doctor will play.

What is a GP?

A GP is a doctor who has done 3 to 4 years of additional specialist training in general practice after graduation. Some GPs specialise further in childbirth (obstetrics), can offer antenatal care and in some cases, can attend the birth.

Your first 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').

Many women visit their GP first 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:

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. Some of these might be covered, or partially covered, by Medicare. It's a good idea to ask your GP about costs.

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.

Your GP's role in pregnancy

Some GPs can be involved in antenatal care in a 'shared care arrangement' which is more common in rural areas. You could have some of your antenatal appointments at your doctor's clinic and some at a public hospital, or with your obstetrician.

Some GPs have done extra training in obstetrics and are known as GP obstetricians — they can provide antenatal care and be there for the birth.

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.

Your 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, 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.

But you should also see your GP at any time if you have any concerns about your health or your baby's health.

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.

Where to seek help

If you have any questions about your pregnancy, your health or the health of your baby and your GP isn't available, you can call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse.

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

Last reviewed: January 2021


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