Obstetrician or midwife

Choosing between an obstetrican or midwife for your baby's birth is an easy choice for pregnant women with a well-established preference, but for others it can be a confusing process. Whatever option you choose, it is your choice and you should always do what you feel comfortable with, rather than worrying what other people will think.

Whatever your decision, they will become your Lead Maternity Caregiver. It’s a good idea to start thinking about a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) as soon as you find out you’re pregnant because they book up fast in some areas.

There is a third option for receiving maternity care in New Zealand and that is with a GP however because of changes to the funding system there are very few GP's still offering this service.

In New Zealand maternity care is free to all women who are New Zealand citizens, have permanent residency or have a permit to stay here for two or more years. To find out whether you are eligible for free maternity care or to order a list of LMCs working in your area, phone the Ministry of Health’s MUM2BE maternity helpline on 0800 686 223. Using an Independent Midwive or a hospital midwife is free however using an Obstetrician can cost you between $3,000 - $4,000 (as a general guide). Note that if complications arise, your midwife or GP may refer you to a hospital obstetrician, which is also free.

Even if you use a midwife, there are some things you may be required to pay for:

- Private obstetrician, paediatrician or anaesthetist 
- Ultrasound scan
- Lab tests other than those routinely given during pregnancy
- Ambulance 
- GP visits unrelated to your pregnancy
- Some antenatal classes

Whomever you choose as you LMC, it is their job to look after you throughout your pregnancy until six weeks after the birth. He or she will check your health and your baby’s progress regularly, usually monthly for the first few months, increasing to weekly towards the end. They should inform you of your options, organise antenatal tests and scans as required, and be responsible for overseeing your labour and delivery. After the birth they should check your baby’s health and progress, help you establish feeding and show you how to take care of your baby before referring you to Plunket and your GP for ongoing care. You may find that a Private Obstetrician uses a midwife to complete some of the care in the period after you have given birth.

When choosing an LMC, you may like to ask them these questions:  What is your childbirth philosophy? What is your previous experience?  How often will you see me during my pregnancy?  Will you be available to me after hours?  Will you be with me throughout my labour?  Where will you deliver my baby? (ie at home or at hospital)  and what backup care will you organise if you are unable to attend the birth?


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This article was written by Claire Halliday for Kidspot, . Sources include Midwives in Private Practice.

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