Expectant parents often start researching pregnancy care when they first start planning for a family or early in a pregnancy. Pregnancy care covers the medical and health professionals who will care for expectant parents and provide medical advice during ante-natal check-ups and classes, as well as during labour, birth and the first few weeks after birth.
There are many factors that influence expectant parents’ choices and decisions. These include: the availability of private healthcare rebates; how far away people live from hospitals and clinics and potential need for specialist medical care. For some people, ethics, values, and belief systems are an important part of their decision-making process as well as financial considerations.
Expectant parents will likely have a more positive experience if they feel empowered to make their own decisions, with the advice and support of medical and health professionals.
Models of pregnancy care include, but are not limited to:
- Public maternity care includes midwifery continuity of care at a public hospital
- Private maternity care includes private obstetrician care throughout pregnancy and birth
- Combined maternity care is where a local GP provides the care mostly until birth
- Shared maternity care is where a public hospital and local GP provide care
An experienced GP can help explain these options so that expectant parents can make an informed decision.
When choosing pregnancy care, expectant parents may consider the following:
- A comfortable and welcoming physical space
- A professional who establishes a rapport and can listen to the expectant parents’ concerns
- Continuity of care (seeing the same person from a clinic or service when possible)
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Accredited health interpreters for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- Experience in a particular field if the pregnancy/woman needs special care
- The method of birth chosen e.g., home birth, birthing centre or in a hospital environment
- Past birth experiences
Research shows that seeing the same professional or group of professionals is beneficial during pregnancy as it results in consistent care and advice (often referred to as ‘continuity of care’) and aims to build an ongoing trusted relationship. This type of care is increasing in demand and should be recognised and supported by those making that choice.
Once connected with their chosen pregnancy care providers, expectant parents can ask for advice on topics such as:
- Medical recommendations for healthy diet and exercise during pregnancy
- Use of prescription medications, tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, if not discussed prior to pregnancy
- Plans for pregnancy scans, pre-natal testing and diagnoses
- Mental health care
- Antenatal classes, labour and birth plans
- Any other concerns
For many expectant parents, diet and nutrition is often a common topic of discussion. The below links offer guidance on this subject:
Pregnancy care is often customised. Some expectant parents have more frequent appointments and scans than others. This may be the case if the person has pre-existing anxiety or has experienced pregnancy loss. It is recommended that expectant parents speak with their pregnancy care provider about this and explore options with them.
Some expectant parents seek alternatives and change their healthcare provider during pregnancy if they decide the relationship is not a good fit. Expected parents should not be afraid to talk this over with a partner, trusted friend, or other person if they are feeling unsure and considering a change. This is a time of much adjustment, so to be able to make choices and be supported is very important. A collaborative approach to maternity care is appreciated by all of those involved so the family or parents feel most supported.