Planning for the birth of a child requires a lot of preparation and for parents there are a lot of considerations.
To help you along the way, Victoria has a number of services that cover arrange of related issues, such as screening and tests, fertility, miscarriage, having twins, having baby with a disability, and more.
How and where you have your baby will depend on several key factors; your health, your baby's health, your past pregnancies, where you live, if you are public or privately insured patient, to name just a few. It's also important to note that not all hospitals have the same services, so you may be directed to a specific hospital based on your needs.
Some rural hospitals do not offer antenatal or birth care, meaning a trip to a larger hospital that may be some distance away.
Understanding your childbirth options will give you the best chance of having a successful and rewarding birth experience.
In Victoria, there are arrange of health services to support your choice.
If you are preparing for your first pregnancy, it is a good idea to speak with your GP before becoming pregnant.
"We'll make sure your general health is good. We like to talk to you if you've got regular medication, we want to make sure that you're on the right dose or even change it because it may not be safe in pregnancy. Like to talk about habits like smoking and drinking, and what effect they may have on the baby. And we'd like you to start on a multi-vitamin including Folic acid and Iodine, to minimise risks to the baby. We want you to be in tip-top condition before you start on a pregnancy."
Once you’re pregnant, your GP will help you decide where to have your baby, and connect you to other healthcare professionals who can help you on your journey. This is part of Antenatal Care.
This can be provided by midwife, doctor, or obstetrician.
A midwife is an important member of your health care team, and will usually be one of the first members on your team that you will meet.
"So the midwife's role in that is just to make sure that Mum and baby are doing okay, during their pregnancy, and they'll set time limits that the women will come into the hospital and be seen by midwife. During those checks, we look at blood pressure, we might check your urine, and we’ll check the baby for size and growth. We usually, from about 18 weeks onwards, we'll start checking the heart rate of the baby, and just generally checking Mum over, make sure she's sort of mentally well in herself as well, which is a really important thing now. Referring her off if anything comes apparent during that pregnancy to different avenues if you need to."
If your pregnancy is considered low risk, you’ll have seven to ten of these visits over the course of your pregnancy.
If your pregnancy is considered high risk, you will see your obstetrician more frequently, and possibly see other specialists or midwives too.
"This often involves management before the pregnancy in preventing problems, as well as management during the pregnancy, involving ultrasounds, checking on the mother's health, and planning for the delivery. Then care during the delivery, which may involve a normal delivery, or an instrumental or Caesarean delivery, all of which an obstetrician is involved in."
In Victoria, most women have their babies in a public hospital.
This option is safe, high-quality, and offers the most child birth options.
However, if your pregnancy is low risk, you may prefer to use only antenatal services, seeing a midwife, and sharing care with your GP.
Home birth options are also available. If you do choose a private hospital, you can choose your obstetrician, who will be there when you have your baby.
Costs will vary, and even with private health cover, you’re likely to face out-of-pocket expenses.
It is a good idea to check with your private health provider so you are aware of all the costs.
No two pregnancies are the same, and in Victoria, there are services to help accommodate a range of cultural and religious needs.
Notify your local maternity service, as well as the hospital you plan to attend, to discuss any cultural or religious requirements you may have.
All pregnant women who advise their maternity hospital that they are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian have access to the Koori Maternity Service.
"It's more of a culturally appropriate service. Aboriginal women, and/or women that are non-Aboriginal, that are having an Aboriginal baby, are more than welcome to access our services."
When the baby’s born and couples return home, there can be other big changes.
From learning to breastfeed, and changing nappies, to getting a routine happening.
All while making sure that you find time to look after your own relationship.
There might be times when new mums may find themselves feeling exhausted, and having trouble coping with the stress that looking after a newborn can bring. There are a number of expert services available to help, including both online and telephone based options that are easy to access and use.
From the moment you try for a baby, to becoming pregnant and coming home with a new baby, it’s a life-changing journey you will never forget.
It's different for each person, and is affected by your medical, cultural, and personal needs.
By asking questions and seeking advice, you’ll find the Victorian Health System offers a range of diverse services that support you at every stage.
For more information, visit: betterhealth.vic.gov.au/pregnancy