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What does an obstetrician do?

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Obstetricians provide specialised medical care during pregnancy and birth.
  • Some people choose to have a private obstetrician to provide antenatal care throughout pregnancy.
  • If you choose to see a private obstetrician for your pregnancy care, the cost can vary widely, so it’s a good idea to ask about likely fees and out-of-pocket costs before your first appointment.
  • If you are planning to give birth in a public hospital or in a birth centre, you might only see an obstetrician if there is a medical need or complication.
  • If you receive your antenatal care in the public system, you won’t usually pay out-of-pocket expenses to see an obstetrician.

What is an obstetrician?

An obstetrician is a doctor with specialist qualifications. Obstetricians are trained to provide medical care during pregnancy (antenatal care), labour and birth, after the birth (postnatal care). Obstetricians have the skills to manage complex or high-risk pregnancies and births, and can perform interventions and caesareans. Most obstetricians are also trained in female reproductive health (gynaecology).

How do I choose an obstetrician?

If you choose to give birth in a public hospital or birth centre as a public patient and you need an obstetrician, you do not usually get to choose your own obstetrician.

Some rural and remote areas may not have a local obstetrician. Some general practitioners (GPs) with extra training in obstetrics can deliver babies if there are no complications. If complications do arise, you may need to be transferred to a hospital that offers an obstetrician.

If you have private health insurance with maternity cover, you can choose your own obstetrician and give birth in a private hospital. Some obstetricians also care for private patients in a public hospital. It's best to check if your preferred obstetrician practises at your preferred hospital.

Do I need a referral to see an obstetrician?

You usually need a referral from your GP to see an obstetrician. Some obstetricians might see you without a referral, but you will need a referral to get the relevant Medicare rebate.

What happens at my first appointment?

At your first antenatal appointment, your obstetrician will check your health and identify any issues that could affect you or your baby.

They will usually offer you the first of routine tests done in pregnancy. Some of these might be subsidised by Medicare. It's a good idea to ask about all the expected costs of your care.

You should also ask how the obstetrician plans to manage your antenatal care and the birth. If their approach and practices do not align with your preferences, you have the right to choose another obstetrician.

Your obstetrician can also help you make lifestyle changes that are good for your baby. If you stop smoking or drinking alcohol, for example, will help keep you and your baby healthy.

What is my obstetrician's role in pregnancy?

If you're getting your antenatal care at a public hospital, you will most likely have regular check-ups with midwives. You’ll see an obstetrician only when you need to. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you may see the obstetrician more often.

If you've chosen a private obstetrician, they will do your antenatal check-ups. The obstetrician will usually:

Some obstetricians perform ultrasounds in their rooms.

Some private obstetricians also offer a 'shared care' arrangement. Under this system you split your appointments between your doctor (GP) or midwife, and your obstetrician. This can be a less expensive option.

What is my obstetrician's role during labour and birth?

If you have an uncomplicated birth at a public hospital as a public patient, you probably won't need an obstetrician. But an obstetrician will always be available to manage any complications or emergencies.

In a private hospital, your obstetrician may visit you during your labour, but you'll mostly be cared for by midwives. Your obstetrician will manage any complications and some interventions. They will usually attend the birth (or second stage of labour).

What is my obstetrician’s role after the birth?

If you have a private obstetrician, they will usually check on you before you leave the hospital.

They'll ask you to book an appointment with them for a check-up around 6 weeks after the birth. At this appointment, you'll also be able to discuss contraception and future pregnancies.

How much does it cost to see obstetrician?

Obstetricians' fees vary a lot, depending on:

  • the type of care you receive
  • whether it's in hospital or not
  • whether you have private health insurance
  • what the obstetrician charges

Seeing an obstetrician as a public patient

If you see an obstetrician as a public patient, Medicare will cover the cost. If you are not covered by Medicare or by another arrangement, you'll need to pay the full cost.

Seeing an obstetrician as a private patient

If you see an obstetrician privately, there are likely to be out-of-pocket costs. You will need to pay the difference (or 'gap') between what Medicare will cover and the obstetrician's fees, hospital costs and other expenses. Some of this might be covered by private health insurance, if you have it.

Obstetricians generally charge a 'management fee' at week 28 of your pregnancy. This is usually the highest fee component. They might charge you additional fees for antenatal visits, the birth and postnatal care. There may also be private hospital costs not covered by private health insurance.

After private health insurance rebates, the overall cost of an obstetrician, private hospital birth and postnatal care can range from $2,500 to $20,000. Without insurance, this will be even higher. The cost might be higher if you or your baby need special care or a long stay in hospital.

Asking about costs

It can be expensive to see specialists, including obstetricians.

Before you go for your first appointment, it’s a good idea ask the obstetrician or their staff about the costs. You can also ask what Medicare will and will not cover.

If you plan to use private health insurance, you can also contact your health fund.

Resources and support

  • The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists service finder can help you locate your nearest obstetrician across Australia.
  • You can also use the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby service finder.

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: February 2023


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Obstetricians: guide for expectant parents | Raising Children Network

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