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10 types of maternity care in Australia

As you’ve probably gathered, giving birth is one of the most significant experiences in a woman’s life. It will change you forever – and not only because it brings a clingy gremlin into your life and automatically promotes you to Chief Snack Procurement Officer. 

Having a positive birth that you’ll look back on fondly is as much about the care you receive in the lead-up as it is about the day itself. Feeling safe and supported can make all the difference, no matter how the actual birth plays out. That’s why it’s important to prepare a birth plan and choose the right maternity care provider for you.

Your maternity care options will depend on things like:

  • What’s available in your area
  • What you can afford
  • Your and your baby’s health
  • Risks of complication
  • Your personal preferences.

You can get advice on what care model to go for from your GP, your friends and family, or by consulting trusty old Google to learn more. But for now, here’s a basic rundown of the 10 models of maternity care in Australia.

1. Public hospital maternity care

If you choose public hospital maternity care, you’ll be referred by your GP to a local public hospital. This will be your home for the next few months for regular pregnancy check-ups with the hospital’s team of midwives and doctors. Chances are, you’ll see a different person each time, though the hospital may try and keep it somewhat consistent for you. 

You’ll give birth at that hospital, but there’s no knowing who’ll be on duty when your bub decides to make an appearance. In some cases, the hospital staff provide home visits, particularly for postnatal care.

2. Midwifery Group Practice caseload care

While this model of care also takes place in a public hospital, it will be led by one or two key midwives. They’ll see you for your antenatal checkups, and will likely be there for your labour and birth. If they’re not rostered on when your baby comes, other midwives will be there for you, and your midwife may pop in at some point and provide your postnatal checkups.

The benefit of this model is the continuity of care. It can be so reassuring to see a familiar face during one of the most intense times of your life! Of course, doctors are on hand should there be any complications, but your birth will be led by your midwife. And after they’ve helped you give birth to a beautiful baby, you may want them to become your actual wife.

3. Private obstetrician care

You may choose to see a private obstetrician for all your regular pregnancy check-ups. You’ll also spend less time waiting around in hospital clinics (which is always a bonus) and build a relationship with one doctor who knows all about you and your pregnancy. 

They’ll help you select a public or private hospital to birth at, and will ideally be there for the birth too. If they can’t be there for whatever reason, your labour, birth and postnatal care will be managed by the hospital midwives (who should be an excellent backup). 

4. Private midwifery care

If your birth is low-risk, you may choose to see a private midwife rather than an obstetrician. Midwives are specialists in ‘normal’ births, and they’re equipped with tools and advice for pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal care. There’s lots of evidence that suggests midwife-led maternity care reduces the likelihood of epidurals, episiotomies and instrumental births. (Something to ponder.)

Again, you’ll be referred to a hospital and your private midwife will often plan to be present for your birth. They’ll share your care with the hospital team, and may also care for you in the postnatal period. 

5. Private obstetrician and privately practicing midwife joint care

In this case, your maternity care will be shared between a doctor and a midwife from the same private clinic (such as a women’s health clinic). Either your doctor, midwife or both will be present at your birth, which generally takes place at a public or private hospital. 

They’ll work collaboratively with the hospital staff, and you’ll be supported by someone who knows the ins and outs of your pregnancy and health concerns. Your private midwife will often be the one providing your postnatal check ups too!

6. Team midwifery care

Similar to Midwife Caseload Care, team midwifery care involves you seeing a small team of no more than eight rostered midwives throughout your pregnancy. You’ll get to know your midwife crew quite closely, but it’s not exactly one-on-one care.

They’ll work with hospital doctors if any risks arise and make sure you’re fit as a fiddle in the postnatal period. (Well, at least on your way.)

7. GP obstetrician care

Love your usual GP? If they’re an obstetrician, they can head-up your maternity care. They’ll see you for your prenatal checkups, and work with midwives in a private or public hospital to ensure your labour and birth goes smoothly. If you run into any complications, they can work with the hospital’s specialists to ensure you’re looked after. 

Again, this might be a great option if you have a medical history and want someone familiar there for you during your pregnancy and birth.

8. Shared care

Shared care is particularly common in rural settings. In effect, you get prenatal care through your community doctor or midwife, in collaboration with a hospital outpatient clinic. You may need to visit the hospital for specific milestone scans or tests that your local doctor or midwife can’t help you with.

Your birth will be supported by the hospital team, and your community doctor or midwife may just pay you a nice visit while you’re delivering. 

9. Public hospital high risk maternity care

If you require special care for a high risk pregnancy, you may need to give birth at a specific hospital with all the right resources and knowledge. You’ll receive care from a fancy team of relevant specialists, in collaboration with the hospital midwives. 

This may be the right option for you if you have health conditions or concerns (Where are my diabetes mamas at? Fellow Type 1 over here!), or if your pregnancy is high-risk for other reasons – like you’re having twins! 

10. Remote area maternity care

If you live in Woop Woop, you’ll make friends with your remote area midwife or nurse and your remote area doctor. Some appointments can be carried out via telehealth (thank you, technology!), but sometimes clinicians perform fly-in-fly-out services to see their patients in person. 

For the birth, you may choose to relocate temporarily to the closest regional or metropolitan hospital. There, you’ll receive top notch birth support and postnatal care from the hospital midwives and doctors. Alternative arrangements can be made if you’re set on birthing at home or a birth centre, and you can chat to your birth team to organise this.

Share this article with a mama-to-be who needs help deciding what care model suits them!

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