Public or Private Hospital for the birth: WDYT?

Justine Davies
Justine Davies 

I don’t know whether to go to a public or private hospital to have our baby – I’d love to hear the experiences of some EB members so that I can weigh it up.

The short story: I knew that DH and I wanted to start a family this year, so 12 months ago we took out private health insurance, so that we would be covered by the time that we had our baby. Everything went to plan, we are now covered and we are now pregnant. All good.

But I am now feeling very stupid because I didn’t do my research on the health fund properly and while I’ve been paying over $100 a month in premiums, they don’t actually cover a great deal of the hospital cost. First up we’ll have a $500 “co-payment”, then they will only pay for the hospital fees, not for any “extras” such as seeing a specialist, needing an ultrasound, blood tests – heaven forbid if I need an emergency Caesar because hardly any of that cost would be covered.

I just want a normal birth – hopefully without drugs (but I’ll wait and see). I thought going private might give me a better level of care, and also because I can choose who I see in terms of health professional, but actually I could be several thousand dollars out of pocket by going private – money that I could otherwise use for my maternity leave. Is it really worth that cost or should I think about going public instead?


Statistically there is a much greater rate of intervention (such as inductions, caesareans and so forth) in private hospitals over public hospitals

Emma, this is a really tricky question to answer and I don’t think there really can be a “yes” or “no” outcome. As you said it’s more about hearing the experiences of others, to give you some food for thought.

I have also asked Hannah Dahlen, who is the national media spokesperson for the Australian College of Midwives and is also an associate professor of midwifery, for some tips on what you should weigh up when making your decision.

“Firstly, if Emma has a commitment to having a normal birth – if that is what she is wanting to do - then her chances of achieving that is much greater in a public hospital,” says Hannah. “Statistically there is a much greater rate of intervention (such as inductions, caesareans and so forth) in private hospitals over public hospitals.”

“And I would suggest that if her number one reason for going private is continuity of care with her obstetrician, well we now have continuity of care within the midwife profession as well. This means that Emma can choose to see the same midwife throughout her prenatal, birth and post natal time. Women using this model tend to have less medical intervention, higher rates of breastfeeding and simply greater happiness overall with the outcome and post-birth settling. This continuity of care is available for private and public patients.”


“I would suggest that Emma discuss her concerns with the hospitals of her choice. It will depend on which public hospital is in her area - some areas still don’t have this “continuity of care” model - but if her local hospital doesn’t then she could maybe check whether she can use another hospital that does.”

“And don’t forget that midwives also work very closely with obstetricians and will know if something during the pregnancy or birth is not normal, in which case she would be referred for specialist care.”

Emma, I think it’s a case of finding out what each of the hospitals in your area offers, then weighing up the pros and cons of each. Best of luck with whatever decision you make!

EB Members: Did you go public or private? Do you have any tips for Emma? Leave your comments here.