Which Maternity Hospital is Right For You
The choice between giving birth in a public or private hospital is often a hotly debated topic. But it shouldn't be. It comes down to what suits you and your needs best.
Your first step is to talk to people whose opinions you trust: your partner, your family and friends, and your GP or specialist. Also take a look at online forums to see what other women are saying. It’s important to remember that although your loved ones’ opinions are important, what was right for them may not be right for you, so you’ll need to trust your own instincts.
What is important to you?
Think about what you need from your maternity care and what type of experience you’d like. One of the best ways to decide is to take a hospital tour. Nothing – aside from actually giving birth there – will give you a better understanding than seeing the facilities firsthand and talking to the people who will be in charge of your care. You’ll have ample opportunity to ask the midwives questions and they will be more than happy to help.
If you feel content and relaxed walking around the premises, that’s a good sign. Keep an eye out to see if everyone looks overly hurried and stressed (although remember a maternity hospital can be rushed at times – helping mothers give birth is serious work) or if it feels cold or clinical. Also see how you feel around the midwives and other hospital staff. Are they pleasant to you on the tour and do they have time for your queries?
Your maternity hospital checklist
Here is a suggested list of things you might want to know more about:
Before and during the birth
- Whom you can call for advice during your pregnancy
- What costs are involved
- How accommodating they will be with your birth plan
- At what stage of labour you should come to the hospital, and whether you should call first
- If there is a different entry after-hours
- Whether there is free or cheap parking (you might be parking for days)
- What you should bring to the hospital with you
- What kind of education will be provided before and after the birth
- If there are optional classes available
- Where you will be initially examined – in your own room or in a waiting area
- What happens if you go into labour prematurely
- If you’ll be in one room for the whole stay
- Whether bathrooms are private or shared
- If all the rooms are the same or if only the most modern ones are being shown
- The birth aids available and if you’re allowed to bring your own from home
- Who can be in the room with you and if there is a number limit
- If you can wear your own clothes
- How much you are permitted to move around the hospital during labour
- The pain relief options available
- If you’re allowed to take photos or film the birth
- If student or junior staff will attend
- If you are allowed to labour at your own pace
- What happens if there’s an emergency during the birth
- What happens if you need or want a caesarean.
After the birth
- What will typically happen immediately after giving birth
- If you’ve had a caesarean, can the baby be placed on you immediately
- How much skin-to-skin contact is encouraged
- When the umbilical cord will be cut
- Where your baby will stay
- Under what circumstances will your baby be away from you
- How much help you will have from the staff at night or if you need a daytime rest
- How many days new mothers stay at the hospital
- Why mothers and babies might have to stay longer
- If your partner can stay overnight with you. If not, what are the hours they can stay
- What the visiting hours are and how many visitors can be in the room
- If there are special ‘extras’ the hospital has to make your stay more comfortable (e.g., TV, wi-fi, books or magazines, a garden area or access to a hairdresser)
- If there is a lactation consultant or a midwife readily available to assist with breastfeeding
- What happens if you have problems breastfeeding
- What aids are available for pain relief and comfort in the days after birth
- The food and dietary options available and how you order food
- If you’ll be given any educational material to take home
- Whom you can call for advice once you’ve left the hospital
- If your obstetrician and/or midwife will check in on you once you’ve gone home.
Ask similar questions at each hospital you’re interested in, and see which one fits you best.
Why you need to decide in the early stages of pregnancy
A hospital tour is usually recommended when you are in the later stages of pregnancy. However, there is a very important reason why you might want to visit the facilities early on.
If you have private health insurance with maternity cover or you’re self-funding your care, you are able to pick the hospital and obstetrician of your choice. You’ll often need to early book in early – by the tenth week of your pregnancy, ideally – to secure the doctor of your choice. Obstetricians usually only deliver at one or two hospitals, so you’ll need to find out where these are.
The other option is to pick the hospital you like first and then choose an obstetrician who delivers there. Each hospital should have a list of their doctors online. Read the Glengarry midwives’ blog “Should You Choose the Hospital or an Obstetrician First?” for advice with this.
All expectant mothers in Australia have access to public health care. However, private health cover is important if you want:
- The flexibility of choosing which hospital you give birth at
- The choice of obstetrician who will deliver your baby
- Extra time in hospital to recover
- A private room and the option to have your partner stay with you
- To have more control of your care
- Continuity of care. The obstetrician who sees you throughout your pregnancy is the same person who will be there to deliver your baby, and they understand your wants, needs and pregnancy history.
Ultimately, where you give birth is your decision.
About the Author
Dr Catherine Harris is a Private Specialist Obstetrician who has delivered more than 4000 babies. To make an appointment directly, phone her practice manager at (08) 9243 3500.