Public Vs Private Pregnancy Care – Which Option is Best?


Tammy George

Male experienced obstetrician examining young pregnant woman

When it comes to pregnancy, public versus private pregnancy care can be a controversial topic. Some mums wouldn’t consider using anyone other than their private obstetrician, while others prefer to have an obstetrician provided under the public system.

Pregnancy and childbirth can be stressful and intimidating for many women. They can feel vulnerable and nervous about their own health and that of their unborn baby. The right obstetrician can put them at ease and play a significant role in the outcome.

Private Pregnancy Care – Advantages & Disadvantages

Private pregnancy care can offer personalised attention and a comfortable environment, but it can also be expensive. Read on to find out the advantages and disadvantages of private pregnancy care. 

Choice of Obstetrician

People with the corresponding level of private hospital health cover can opt to see the obstetrician of their choice. Many will use the doctor that a friend or family member recommends, may ask their GP for a referral, or even choose one based on reviews and research online, location may also be a deciding factor.  They may want to make their appointments close to work to reduce the time they need to take off. For some patients the private hospital helps choose their obstetrician. If they want a private hospital close to home or family then they need a doctor who delivers at that hospital. In the end, the important part is for the patient to be empowered to make the decision they feel most comfortable with and best suits their needs.     

Childbirth isn’t always predictable and private obstetricians have some weekends where they’re not on call or can fall ill. If a patient goes into labour on a weekend that their obstetrician isn’t working, a colleague will step in and deliver the baby. Often patients will know in advance which weekend(s) their doctor isn’t working so they can be prepared and have a back up plan.

Private obstetricians usually book their annual leave well in advance so patients aren’t taken on with due dates during their leave. Some patients may be happy to have their antenatal appointments with their preferred obstetrician and switch to their colleague for the birth.
With the public health system, patients don’t choose their doctor for the appointments or the birth.

Pregnant female holding her stomach

Continuity of Care

Some women feel it’s important that they see the same obstetrician throughout their pregnancy and at the birth. They feel they receive a higher level of care because the patient and doctor get to build a rapport before the birth. Using the same doctor is less daunting or intimidating for them.

Mums who have had a positive experience with their first child want to use the same obstetrician for the subsequent children. They know what to expect by using the same obstetrician and won’t need to repeat their medical history.

Private Hospital with Private Room

Most women would choose a private hospital room after the baby’s birth, when given the choice. They’re tired from the birth and caring for their newborn. They don’t want to be disturbed by another mother or her crying baby while they try to rest.

A private room offers patient’s privacy while discussing their health concerns with a nurse or doctor. Learning to breastfeed their baby in a private room is more comfortable than having an audience. Visiting friends and family members don’t need to worry about the noise disrupting another patient in a shared room. 

If a room is available at the time of the birth, patients with hospital cover at a private hospital are given a private room.    

Extras a Private Room Offers

Private hospitals often have more services available to new parents than public hospitals. Many partners choose to stay overnight to help care for their new bub and a private room makes this possible. The partner’s meals may be included in the cost and may even be covered by their health insurance, depending on their insurance plan.

Some private hospitals have allied health services that a new mum may need. A physio, lactation consultant, or dietician may be able to visit the mum in her room to assist with their recovery and further care. Gentle exercise classes may also be offered in the hospital to help the mother’s recovery.
A mother’s community group may be held weekly at the hospital for mums to meet each other or listen to expert talks. Some private hospitals even offer newborn parents’ a restaurant quality meal before they leave the hospital knowing it may take a while for them to enjoy a meal out. During these special times, it’s the little extra benefits and services that make a difference in the parent’s experience and overall wellbeing.

Stay in Hospital to Help Care for Your Baby

For many new mums, it’s important to learn all they can from the midwives before leaving hospital. Many new mums experience difficulties with breastfeeding. An extra day in hospital with a midwife or lactation consultant can make all the difference in being able to successfully breastfeed their baby long-term.

Some new mums have no experience changing a nappy, bathing, swaddling or dressing a newborn. Many will dive in and work it out while other mums would prefer to be shown how to by an experienced midwife. Extra time in hospital provides more learning opportunities.  

Stay in Hospital to Care for Mum

Mums at public hospitals often have to return to hospital or have a nurse visit them to get their stitches removed or to check their wound. A longer stay at the hospital may reduce the need for any medical care until their doctor sees them for their six weekly check post-partum.

For some mums, an extra night or two in the hospital means they can leave their baby in the nursery to get some quality sleep between feeds if breastfeeding. When they go home, they’re a little less exhausted and better able to care for a newborn and older children, if any.


Private hospital stays are expensive. Without hospital insurance, it’s not possible for the average Australian to afford to have a baby in a private hospital. But with the right level of health cover, a mum can have her baby in a private hospital and stay with only the hospital excess to pay. Their health insurance fund covers the cost of the delivery room/operating theatre, private room, meals and television.

Waiting Period

Due to the cost of maternity expenses, most health insurers require patients to hold an appropriate level of hospital cover for a minimum of 12 months before the baby is born. This means mums planning a family need to arrange hospital cover before falling pregnant.

Hospital midwife giving newborn baby to mother with father sitting near

Public Pregnancy Care – Advantages & Disadvantages

The public health care system provides maternity services around Australia. Some women choose to have their baby in a public hospital while others unfortunately have no choice.

No Health Insurance Required

The main reason women give birth in a public hospital is because they don’t have private health insurance. Most private hospitals will only accept people who hold a private health insurance policy because it’s too expensive to have a child without insurance, particularly if there are complications. A baby that needs neonatal care can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars within a short period of time.

Public patients have few, if any, out of pocket expenses when they have a baby. It’s Medicare funded so they don’t have to pay any fees.  

No Choice of Obstetrician

Unlike private patients, public patients don’t get to choose their obstetrician. Their antenatal appointments will be with the obstetrician who is available that day and may have a different obstetrician at each appointment. Hence, it’s possible for them to deliver their baby with an obstetrician they haven’t met in any of their antenatal classes.  Some women would prefer to have more continuity of care but the public system doesn’t allow it.

Length of Stay in Hospital

If there are no complications for mum or bub following the birth, public patients have a shorter hospital stay. In many public hospitals, patients are encouraged to leave within as little as 24 hours after the birth of their baby. They may receive after-care at home but short stays free up hospital beds and reduce the costs of the stretched public medical system.

Patients who have had a caesarean section can stay longer than those who have had a natural birth, however, their length of stay is often still shorter than those in a private hospital.

Mother holding her new born baby

Deciding on Maternity Health Insurance Cover 

When it comes to starting a family, choosing whether to take out maternity cover is one of the first of thousands of decisions you’ll make during your child’s life. 

Pregnancy and childbirth is an incredibly rewarding and empowering experience, but we know that it can also be overwhelming - this includes whether or not you’ll want maternity cover. This decision needs to be made before falling pregnant. HIF's premium hospital policy covers a range of pregnancy and birth-related services, including a private room at a HIF-contracted hospital (subject to room availability) and the choice of hospital excess to reduce your premium. 

If you have any questions or want to discuss your situation with one of our members, call us on 1300 134 060 or contact us here.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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