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How to choose a maternity care provider

You’ve just found out you’re pregnant. Congrats! 

So, uh… now what do you do? 

It’s time to gather your support crew. Yes, the people you’ll whinge to when your back aches and you can’t bend over, but also (more importantly) the team of specialists and care providers who’ll help you birth this kid!

The majority of women in Australia book it to their GP straight off the bat, and are guided by them on details like what specialists to see, where to get scans done, and what hospital they’ll birth at. Some people will get hot tips from their friends and family. Others will only really have one option of care available, based on where they live or what they can afford.

You’ll need to decide on:

  1. Your place of birth – public hospital, private hospital, birth centre or home
  2. Your maternity care provider – midwife, obstetrician or GP.

It can be really daunting choosing your care team and place of birth. But remember, it’s okay to change your mind at any time during your pregnancy. You’re not locked in. It’s your body, your baby, your birth, your choice!

What’s important is that you take an active role in the decision making, to ensure your birth happens the way YOU want.

Consider logistics

The maternity care you can access will ultimately depend on what’s available where you live. If you live in an urban area, you’ll probably have lots to choose from. In rural areas, you’ll be more limited.

Some people will choose to travel for care or even relocate for birth if the options they want aren’t available locally. Obviously, drastic moves like this involve added costs and logistics, but if it helps you achieve the birth you want then it might be right for you! 

Be active

Your birth experience stays with you forever. It will impact you and your family’s physical and mental health for the rest of your lives. In Australia, we’re seeing an increase in birth disappointment and trauma. Up to one in three women experience birth trauma, and one in ten women emerge from childbirth with PTSD. (Not good.)

While being able to snuggle with a healthy baby at the end of your labour is the goal, achieving a healthy and happy mum in the process should also be a part of the deal. While labour and birth can never be 100% predictable, you have a role to play in striving for a positive birth experience, as do the people supporting you in childbirth. 

Carefully consider how you want your birth to happen, and communicate this to your support team. Create a birth plan as early as possible, and select a care provider that best fits this. 

Explore what’s important to you 

Maybe you’d like to be old pals with the midwives and obstetricians delivering your baby. Maybe a physiological birth with no or minimal intervention is important to you. Perhaps you’re all about having an elective caesarean in a large hospital with the very best medical care (read: ALL the drugs). Maybe having a bunch of strangers and medical students present isn’t a big deal for you. (Or maybe it really, really is.) You may want to give birth as close to home as possible – or even AT home.  

Figuring out what’s important to you is your first step in choosing the right maternity care provider. 

If you’re the reading type, there are a few great books that can help you decide what you actually want, and what questions to ask yourself and your care provider. Check out:

  • Rhea Dempsey:Birth With Confidence: Savvy Choices for Normal BirthBeyond the Birth Plan: Getting Real About Pain and Power
  • Catherine Bell:Birth Map: Boldly going where no birth map has gone before

Educate yourself on models of care

The next step involves learning about the different care providers and models of care in Australia (there are lots), so you can choose one that best aligns with what you want. 

For example:

If your birth vision includes having a known care provider and a physiological birth with no interventions, a midwifery model of care will most likely suit you. 

If your birth vision involves having an elective caesarean with a known doctor present, then having a private obstetrician may be the best model of care for you.  

Don’t just settle for what your GP advises. A Google search can help you find private midwives and obstetricians in your area, and you can also ring your local hospital to find out what models of care they offer.  

Get onto it early

Most, (but not all) models of care will require a GP referral. Again, calling to ask them is the best way to find out what you need to get started. Doing this before your pregnancy or in the first trimester is really important. 

The earlier you connect with your preferred maternity care provider and start building your relationship with them, the better!

Are you excited? YOU SHOULD BE! This birth is going to be epic. Even if it doesn’t go exactly to plan, you’ll be prepared, supported and in the care of people you trust. Yay!

Got a good story? Share your maternity care experiences with us in the comments below.

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