As you probably know, the health care system in Australia is pretty good, but also very expensive. If you have a permanent residency status in Australia, you are entitled to Medicare (Australian Social Security). Otherwise, you should ask your travel insurance if you are insured for pregnancy and giving birth. Becoming a mother is obviously a wonderful, unique and memorable experience… but at the other end of the world, it can be stressful or even frightening! But don’t worry, you will find in this article all the necessary information to prepare you for your pregnancy in Australia.
Being pregnant in Australia
You’ve just done a pregnancy test (available for a few bucks at the pharmacy or supermarket), you’re waiting for a few minutes and … surprise! The result is positive, you are pregnant! A 9-month adventure begins and you can be sure that you will get a lot of support.
The follow-up of your pregnancy will be taken care of either by your family doctor (GP), an obstetrician or a midwife. It will probably surprise you that you don’t go to the gynaecologist here in Australia. Actually, you will mainly deal with your family doctor. A midwife student might assist the family doctor if you agree. You can usually choose for yourself whether you want to get the pregnancy control done at the hospital, at your family doctor, or at both the hospital and the family doctor.
During your pregnancy, you have two ultrasounds done. The first is in the first quarter and the second in the second quarter. There is also the possibility to get a 3D ultrasound, which is very popular in Australia but quite expensive and is not supported by Medicare (about AUD 500). If you have a multiple pregnancy, you will get more ultrasound scans than the average, usually every two months. Ultrasound is paid for by Medicare. If you are not insured with Medicare, an ultrasound costs between $ 150 and $ 200.
In addition to the ultrasound, you have blood tests. The first blood test takes place at the beginning of your pregnancy to estimate the time of conception. Around the 5th month, you have a second test to prevent gestational diabetes. The second blood test lasts about 3 hours in total. First, you will have a blood test, then you take some kind of a liquid, wait for a while, and then have another blood test. Your doctor prescribes these tests, which means Medicare reimburses you. If you pay for the blood test yourself, it costs about AUD 130 per test.
They also offer other vaccines. These are not compulsory but are recommended by doctors, especially pertussis.
Public or private hospital?
During your pregnancy, the question is whether you would rather be cared for in a private or public hospital. With Medicare, giving birth in a public hospital costs between AUD 0 and 1,500. I was told that giving birth without any complications costs $5,000 if you’re not covered by Medicare. However, this price is nothing compared to giving birth in a private hospital, which can quickly get up to AUD 20,000 (on average, AUD 8,500). Keep in mind that most backpacker insurances don’t cover pregnancies. If you have Medicare, you don’t have to pay for the birth.
The hospital offers a variety of services. During my pregnancy and up to six months after giving birth, I was able to claim services of a physiotherapist for free.
In addition, I also did six free midwife courses. These are very helpful if you become a mum or dad for the first time. You will learn everything about the different stages of birth, you get advice for a relaxed pregnancy, a successful birth and on the arrival of the baby. In these courses, you also get the opportunity to meet other future parents and share your worries, doubts, and hopes.
Finally, it is advisable to develop a birth plan to share your wishes with the medical team (epidural anaesthesia or not, birth position, vitamin K injection at birth or not, etc.).
Giving birth in Australia
The big day has arrived, contractions have begun and you’ve forgotten everything you’ve learned during the birth preparation class. Don’t panic, a team of experienced and empathetic professionals will take care of you.
The birth plan
Australian doctors and midwives are very attentive. Our hospital focused on natural methods of giving birth (breathing and meditation techniques to treat pain, hot bath, electrodes in the back, etc.). When I asked for epidural anaesthesia, I did not feel judged at all; on the contrary, I was supported in my request.
You can discuss different birthing methods with the medical team. In Australia, having a caesarean section for non-medical reasons is common. If you want, you can choose the date of the c-section. The water birth is also popular. In addition, the bathrooms of the maternity wards are very often equipped with a bathtub. In some maternity wards there is also a diffuser with essential oils, dim light and the ability to listen to music. Really comfortable! More and more women are engaging doulas, trained midwives, who assist them with giving birth at home.
In my case, I had to have a c-section done. My husband was in the surgery room, which is standard in Australia. He even had the right to watch the birth of our baby. Both stayed with me in the room and we were not separated at all. I had my son with me in the recovery room and gave him his first food. Australians are by no means intrusive, leaving parents time and space to connect with their child. Breastfeeding is very common and encouraged. The nurses at the hospital will support you and help you breastfeeding, if you want. However, keep in mind that depending on your baby’s condition, you may be separated after giving birth. If the baby needs special care, he or she will be taken to the neonatal ward.
Regarding hospital costs. If you have to pay out of your own pocket, plan to spend about AUD $1,400 per night. In general, the total amount is payable within 7 days after your departure. In some hospitals, payment plans are available if you find it difficult to pay everything at once. The length of stay depends on the hospitals and your condition. In some, you can return home after a few hours, in others you stay for several days, including your spouse. Personally, I asked to stay for 5 days to recover from the birth and pain.
Returning home after birth
Postpartum care is also essential for you and your newborn baby. From the hospital you will receive a complete brochure with lots of information. I was very happy with the Australian Home Monitoring. First of all, the midwife and a paediatric nurse visit you at home to ensure your well-being and that of your baby. If you want, you also get personalised breastfeeding support. Finally, you get the opportunity to join a group of young mothers run by a paediatric nurse to learn and discuss parenting and infant development. Even after birth, I was able to use all these services for free!
Check-in with your nearby hospital and contact the maternity unit itself to find out about all the benefits you can get. In large cities, you can choose the maternity ward that best suits your needs.
Updated on the 05/02/2020. Initially published on the 15/02/2019.