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What does an obstetrician do?

5-minute read

Obstetricians provide specialised medical care during pregnancy and birth. You might choose to have a private obstetrician, who you’ll see throughout your pregnancy. If you are planning to give birth in a public hospital or in a birth centre, you might see an obstetrician only if there is a medical need or complication.

What is an obstetrician?

An obstetrician is a doctor with specialist qualifications in delivering babies and providing medical care to women during pregnancy (antenatal care) and after the birth (postnatal care). Obstetricians have the skills to manage complex or high-risk pregnancies and births, and can perform interventions and caesareans. Many have also trained in women's 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 since they don't work everywhere.

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

At your 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 probably offer you the first of many 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. Stopping smoking or drinking alcohol, for example, will help keep you and your baby healthy.

Your obstetrician's role in pregnancy

If you're getting your antenatal care at a public hospital, you will see an obstetrician only when you need to. You'll also see midwives. Women with high-risk pregnancies will probably 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 which you split your appointments between your doctor (GP) or midwife and your obstetrician. This can be a less expensive option.

Your 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 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, and will attend the birth (or second stage of labour).

After the birth

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

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

How much does an obstetrician cost?

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

If you see a private obstetrician, you will need to pay the difference (or 'gap') between any Medicare rebate 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 pregnancy 'management fee' at 28 weeks' gestation. This is usually the highest fee component. They might charge you additional fees for antenatal consultations, the delivery 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, the cost can range from $9,000 to $30,000. The cost might be higher if you or your baby need special care or a long stay in hospital.

Where to seek help

  • 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.
  • If you have any questions about your pregnancy, your health or the health of your baby and your obstetrician 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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Obstetricians: guide for expectant parents | Raising Children Network

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