If you’ve tried getting advice on whether to go private or public for your birth, you’ve probably come across two passionate schools of thought:
- “You NEED to go private. Private obstetrician, private hospital, upgrade your health insurance NOW so you’re fully covered!”
- “Go public. It’s great, and you’ll barely pay a cent.”
Thankfully, we don’t exclusively prescribe to either school and have thoughtfully created a list of key things for you to consider so you can decide on your own! (We’re great like that.) So get reading below.
There’s no doubt about it – the public system is more affordable. This is because our public health system Medicare is GREAT and covers most of your hospital fees. You may still need to pay for some scans, specialist visits and your birth class (if you choose to take one). But for the labour and birth itself, you get off pretty scot-free!
If you choose private care, you may be a few thousand dollars out of pocket by the end of your pregnancy. A bulk of this cost goes into your private obstetrician fees. (Those guys can charge whatever they want!) But for many women, the cost is worth it for the continuity of care throughout their pregnancy and birthing journey. And sure… better hospital food.
Yes, we used the word ‘accommodation’. Feel like you’re booking into a fancy resort?
Some private hospitals offer pretty luxurious conditions, including double beds, private rooms and celebratory cheese platters and champagne following the birth (that last one may be a myth… but I’ve heard it’s so!). You can expect to stay in a private hospital for a few days after the birth to relax, recover and ease into life with your new bub.
Mother of two, Hannah, told us of birthing in a private hospital:
“I had the option to put the baby in the nursery and they’d bring him to me to feed through the night so I got a little extra sleep (which any parent knows is invaluable in hindsight!). Having a private room was great too – not having to worry about sharing with a stranger, disturbing them, etc. And room service was a bonus, ordering meals on demand. Obviously not something that you can replicate at home!”
If you birth at a public hospital, you’ll be lucky to have your bloodied sheets changed after the birth. (I’d like to say I’m joking, however I did unfortunately lie on blood-stained sheets for my four days in hospital post birth!).
Public hospital accommodation will likely be a small, shared room after you give birth. It’s not terrible, though. You may be so busy staring at your new creation to even notice the other people in the room with you anyway. Public hospitals can tend to send you home faster too, to make room for more birthing mamas. You’ll generally stay one night or less if you have a complication-free birth, or 4 to 5 days if you have a c-section.
Quality of care and birth outcomes
In Australia, we’re fortunate to have a very high standard of care in our hospitals. Hannah, who birthed in a private hospital in Sydney, even said, “I considered going public the second time, because our local hospital has a great reputation and I think the public health system in this country is pretty outstanding.”
You can generally expect a similar quality of care in either a public or a private hospital. Some public hospitals may be more suited to some women as they’re equipped with specialist teams that are trained in handling high-risk births.
When it comes to birth outcomes, Bernadette Lack – midwife, personal trainer and Founder of Core & Floor Restore – dug up some evidence for us. She found that healthy women with a low risk pregnancy who give birth in a private hospital were more likely to experience:
- Instrumental birth
- Caesarean section
- Lower chance of vaginal birth.
She said, “In NSW, only 15 per 100 healthy women having their first baby in a private hospital had a vaginal birth with no obstetric intervention (such as induction, artificial rupture of waters or the synthetic hormone drip) compared to 35 per 100 women giving birth in a public hospital.”
Bernadette noted that Australia has one of the highest c-section rates in the world, at 35%. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the caesarean rate should be between 10-15% and only performed when medically necessary.
While there’s nothing wrong with having a caesarean or requiring medical intervention during your birth (and it’s amazing we can safely access the technology!), it’s interesting that private hospitals report higher rates of intervention than public hospitals. This could also be related to private hospitals featuring more obstetrician-led care than midwife-led care.
What matters to you
Wherever you choose to bring your beautiful bub into the world – whether it be a private hospital, a public hospital, a birthing suite, at home, or in the back seat of your car while rushing to hospital (not advised) – remember that it’s your choice. Your maternity care can have a huge influence on your overall birth experience, so take the time to research your options and work out what matters to you.
Bernadette also added:
“You can ask a potential care provider or hospital for their statistics. For example, you may want to know what their rates of water birth, induction of labour and caesarean section are (or whatever else is important to you). You can then compare these with different options of care you’re considering. Doing so can help you to align yourself with the right care provider.”
So there you go. Don’t worry about what your highly opinionated Aunt Linda tells you. The choice of private or public hospital care is yours!
Expert contributor: Bernadette Lack
Bernadette is a midwife, personal trainer and Founder of Core & Floor Restore. Get more excellent information on labour techniques by following her on Instagram and checking out her FREE and very helpful online antenatal classes.