Congratulations! The second line is definitely there on your pregnancy test, the blood test has confirmed it, and the next step is to decide where you are going to have your baby and who will deliver it for you.
So, how do you choose the best obstetrician through a public or private hospital?
You don’t need to have private health insurance and you will have your antenatal (pre-birth) appointments in the nearest maternity hospital in the area that you live. You will also birth your baby at this hospital, which is staffed by doctors who are training to become Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, midwives and midwifery students.
These staff members are reliant on support from more senior staff, usually, a Consultant Obstetrician who has completed all their advanced training. You won’t know who will deliver your baby, it will depend on who is working on the day/night of your birth, and you will most likely share a room with other women who have recently given birth.
You could see a range of doctors or midwives every time you visit the hospital or your appointments. If all goes as normal, you can expect to be in the hospital for 1-2 days after a vaginal delivery, longer if you are recovering from a caesarean section. There are no out of pocket costs for birthing in a public hospital, providing you are an Australian resident as it is covered by Medicare.
If you decide you’d like to have your baby in a private hospital and choose who delivers your baby, you will need to book a private Obstetrician. Obstetricians have completed all their advanced training and manage all obstetric issues by themselves. They will have delivery rights to selected private hospitals, and your bed needs to be booked ASAP as they are in high demand (your Obstetrician’s rooms will do this for you).
Patients usually have private health insurance with Obstetric cover (usually for at least a 12 month period prior to falling pregnant). Your private health insurance covers your hospital stay and part of your Obstetric fees. All appointments throughout the pregnancy are conducted in the Obstetrician’s rooms and they become more frequent as the pregnancy progresses.
Most obstetricians will utilise an ultrasound machine at each visit to monitor the growth and development of the baby. They are apt at managing any issue that arises during the pregnancy.
One of the most important things is that your private Obstetrician is available to attend to your pregnancy needs 24 hours a day via a paging service. This provides you with assurances that you get the best care from an experienced professional.
Will the Obstetrician be available to you for all your antenatal appointments and for the birth? They may be in a group share arrangement and it’s important to know how frequently they handover.
However, you can always call their rooms and their receptionists are always able to answer these questions for you.
If all goes as normal, you can expect to be in the hospital for 4-7 days around the birth. Most of this time you will spend in your own room getting to know your child and how to feed and care for him or her, letting your body deal with no longer being pregnant and seeing well-wishers.
If it is important for you to have your baby at a particular hospital, you may want to check which obstetricians practice at that hospital as this will reduce your choice. Sometimes there is a compelling reason why a particular hospital should be preferred over another (eg if there is one that is close to your home or has a great reputation).
If you live near the city, there are usually a range of suitable institutions. The advantage of this is that your doctor is less likely to be in transit between delivering a baby at another hospital or even in the middle of a birth at another location when you need them – or worse stuck in traffic. It takes time to change, travel, re-scrub to see you.
All people entitled to call themselves Obstetricians in Australia must be accredited by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG). To be a member of RANZCOG usually takes at least 13 years from the point a person begins to study as a doctor, and at least 7 from the point they are fully qualified.
The process involves the person completing basic medical training at a university and teaching hospital (usually 6 years) which entitles them to be called a doctor, pass the exam to enter the field of obstetrics and (usually another 6 years). There is also an ongoing training and professional development process that must be met to maintain accreditation.
To check your Obstetrician is registered (and has not been struck off because of unprofessional conduct), you can check via the Medical Board. By the time a typical Obstetrician enters private practice, they will have helped over 1000 babies into the world using a variety of methods.
This may be an important decision if you have a preference either way.
Are they close for consultations and check-ups (eg close to your work, close to home or a close relative) or close to the hospital in which you will have your baby is important to you? Having an Obstetrician’s practice close to the hospital they deliver at is actually quite important – it reduces the time that the doctor is in transit and the chance that when you need them most they will be available quickly.
Most obstetricians will position their practice close to a major maternity hospital. You can always search the Yellow Pages or Google Maps to see which Obstetricians are located near you or the hospital you wish to attend.
And finally, once you have chosen your Obstetrician and made your first appointment you need to feel confident in talking to your Obstetrician. It is important that you have confidence in your Obstetrician, their judgment and advice, and you do not feel awkward with them. You should feel comfortable raising issues about your body (including your private parts!), your state of mind and your preferences and expectations regarding the birth.
Having a baby is one of the most significant and rewarding events in your life and it’s important you feel supported. Your Obstetrician should be confident, caring, reassuring and available to assist you throughout your pregnancy and childbirth.