Should you choose an obstetrician or a maternity hospital first?

By Glengarry Private Hospital

Here’s what you need to consider when weighing up your maternity hospital and obstetrician choices.

Discovering you’re pregnant is an exciting time. It can feel like there are so many things to do but among the very first should be booking in to see an obstetrician and choosing a hospital.

If you don’t have private health insurance or you’re not self-funding your own care, unfortunately you’re not able to make this choice and you’ll most likely give birth at the public hospital in your catchment area. If you do have private health insurance that includes maternity cover, you have many more options; not just where you give birth, but who takes care of you during pregnancy and delivers your baby.

It can be difficult to know whether to pick the hospital or obstetrician first — and it depends on many factors.

Choosing your maternity hospital

What kind of birthing experience do you think you might prefer? Each hospital has a very different ‘feel’, so we recommend taking a hospital tour to see their maternity services firsthand.

During these tours, you can meet the midwives and see the birthing suites and other labour facilities. You also have the opportunity to ask questions about the birth. For example, what happens in the event of premature or complicated births.

You may also want to find out:

  • If you’ll definitely have a private room
  • If your partner can stay with you
  • How long patients typically stay and how long you’re allowed to stay
  • The aftercare that is available for you and your baby
  • The post-birth education services from the midwives
  • If parking is free and/or if there are many carparks available
  • What the visiting hours are
  • If there are any ‘extras’ they offer, such as entertainment (cable or streamed television, for example), dietary options or access to a garden or rest area.

Choosing your Obstetrician

Obstetricians choose which hospitals they operate out of. Most will deliver at only one or maybe two premises at the most.

You don’t have to choose the first obstetrician you visit, the obstetrician you’ve had before or your current gynaecologist-obstetrician. While word-of-mouth referrals are exceptionally valuable, the doctor who was perfect for your sister or friend may not be the best one for you. Research online whom you might like to see, call their rooms and ask their midwife or practice manager questions.

This is an important decision, so consider the following:

  • Do you have a pre-existing condition that the obstetrician specialises in or has experience with? For example, do they have experience with diabetic or epileptic women?
  • If you’ve previously had a caesarean section and you’d like to consider a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean), are they on board with this?
  • How they feel about interventions. Some doctors may lean slightly towards birth interventions but you may feel very strongly about a natural birth
  • What kind of policies and preferences they have. For example, will they allow you to go over your due date a little or do they prefer to induce without delay?
  • In what situations do they perform an episiotomy?
  • Do you feel comfortable and trust their opinions? For many people, personality does matter and your healthcare provider’s bedside manner during such an emotional period in your life is important.
  • Do they answer your questions and take your individual needs and concerns seriously?
  • Are they supportive of your birth plan, if you have one?
  • Would you prefer a man or woman?
  • If they’re taking holidays any time around your due date: If your doctor cannot attend your birth for whatever reason, which doctor is their backup? The chance of this happening in private practice is very slim but it’s worth asking the question

If you have decided on an obstetrician already, make sure you book in early to avoid missing out. Ideally this will be when you’re five to 10 weeks along. If you already have an obstetrician but feel there is a problem or you are not seeing eye-to-eye, there is nothing wrong with changing providers.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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