Pregnant women are faced with many decisions during their pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, you may be asking yourself:
Do I find out the sex of my baby?
Do I tell everyone the sex?
What name do I choose?
Do I have a theme for my nursery?
Apart from all these important decisions, many pregnant women are also faced with this question:
“Do I go public or private for my antenatal care?”
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This is certainly the question I was faced in my first pregnancy, and now face again in my second. And this decision, surprisingly, needs to be made early in your pregnancy. Your first scan may be at 12 weeks, but you may likely visit your General Practitioner as soon as you suspect you’re pregnant. At this first appointment, your doctor may have certain views regarding your care, but ultimately the decision is up to you. Whichever way you decide, your doctor will need to put processes in motion for the rest of your pregnancy journey i.e. they may refer you to a obstetrician/gynecologist or give you information about public midwifery clinics.
There are certainly many benefits of both options. Here are some pros and cons of both options:
What does the public system look like?
There shouldn’t be any out-of-pocket costs for antenatal care or when giving birth as a public patient in a public hospital. Your scans and antenatal classes may also be covered for free. Medicare will cover 75 per cent of the costs as a private patient in a public hospital but the remainder will need to come out of your own pocket if you don’t have health insurance.
In the public system, you cannot choose your obstetrician and you may see multiple doctors and midwives during your pregnancy, however, many hospitals are striving to achieve greater continuity of care. Accommodation is of the shared room variety, and this is likely to be the case even as a private patient in a public hospital as there is no guarantee of being allocated a room to yourself.
During the Birth:
You can expect to be cared for by a midwife unless there are any complications that require intervention by a doctor.
So, what does private health insurance cover look like?
Private health insurance will usually cover the costs of hospital accommodation and some or all of the fees for your obstetrician. There may be some out-of-pocket costs for using a private midwife as not all health funds will necessarily cover this. Even with health insurance, you can still expect some out-of-pocket expenses for out-of-hospital services such as visits to your obstetrician and scans.
In the private system, there is much greater scope for choosing your own obstetrician but you still won’t have complete control over this. If you wish to give birth in a particular private hospital, you will have to choose from the obstetricians who work there. If your heart is set on having a particular obstetrician, you’ll have to use the private hospital in which they work. Bear in mind too that some health funds require you to use one of the private hospitals that they have agreements with and that this may influence where you are treated and by whom.
During the Birth:
As in the public system, it will usually be a midwife that cares for you during the birth. Your obstetrician will not necessarily be present, especially if they are on call somewhere else. However, there is still a good chance that your obstetrician will be available to deliver your baby if needed. Many obstetricians advised many, many months advance of their intentions to take annual leave. Therefore, you will know in advance whether your choice of obstetrician is available, and if not, you have the choice to see another.
Many mothers I know personally (i.e. my friends, my colleagues, and women I met in my mother’s group), chose to go private for their first baby. This is particularly the case if the mother had been classified as having a higher risk pregnancy. For women having their second or subsequent pregnancies, I observed there to be a little more variance with the decisions; mothers were largely making decisions based on their first pregnancy and labour experience. For many women who had complicated deliveries, they opted for private cover for their subsequent pregnancies.
Ultimately the decision is yours. What you may choose for one pregnancy, may be different for another. You need to decide what is the best decision for yourself, your baby and your family’s circumstances.
What factors helped you decide whether to go private or public for your antenatal care?
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