Even if you are thinking of planning a hospital birth, not all hospital care givers have the same remit. For example, you could be under the care of a private obstetrician or a team of midwives. Obstetrics is a medical speciality and you will most likely be referred to an obstetrician if you have any complications during your pregnancy. Midwives, on the other hand, oversee low-risk pregnancies.
Some midwives are based in private midwifery practices that offer pregnancy, birth and postnatal care, such as Coast Life Midwifery. They offer 24-hour professional and personal care, advice and support. “We partner with women and their support networks as they seek to expand their families,” says Allison Stephens, a midwife and lactation consultant at the practice.
“Based in Maroochydore, we have visiting rights to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital and Caboolture Hospital,” Allison adds. “The practice also offers shared care with private obstetricians at the Sunshine Coast Private Hospital as well as home births. Women who choose us work with a dedicated midwife from pregnancy planning to beyond childbirth who actively empowers them to self-determine their care pathways.”
If your pregnancy is deemed as low-risk, a birthing centre could be another option for you. They provide a more relaxed, homely setting for giving birth, yet are still located in a hospital. This means they could be a good choice for you if you are tempted by a home birth but want the reassurance of being close to emergency medical care if needed. The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and The Gold Coast Hospital both have birth centres. Different birthing options such as water births might be available here too. They are often in high demand, so if you think this might be the option for you, check with your doctor or midwife about how to get a referral for one.
Then there are doulas. They are trained support people whose primary focus is the emotional and physical wellbeing for both parents during pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period.
Bronwyn Arnold-Briggs is a certified birth doula and runs Kindred Birth. She says while doulas do not give medical advice or provide medical care, they can provide evidence-based information and open non-judgmental support to prepare couples for their best birth experience.
“We help with preparation of birth preferences, help women learn about their body and how it works during birth (you’d be surprised that most women really don’t understand the ‘mechanics’ of giving birth) and teach skills to help with labour and comfort measures,” Bronwyn says. “We will also talk about any fears or concerns the couple may have about the labour and birth and help with strategies or information to put them at ease.”
Doulas can attend both hospital and home births. “For some families, having a home birth is the right choice for them,” Bronwyn explains. “It could come from a previous experience in hospital or simply seeing birth as a non-medical event and choosing the comfort and privacy of their own home.”
If a couple chooses this option, they will usually receive their medical care throughout the pregnancy from the same midwife, and might call their doula to come to them in early labour to help them manage and prepare for the more intense active labour. “At some point they will decide it’s time to call their midwife – this is all discussed during their antenatal appointments,” says Bronwyn. “A midwife will bring with her a full arsenal of equipment, medication, oxygen, etc – they are basically a walking hospital. The midwife will monitor the mother’s progress and assess her in a medical capacity. All the while a doula could be massaging mums hips and back, helping Dad apply counter pressure on her lower back, making sure both parents are eating and drinking. Many midwives will also be providing this level of personal support in a home birth situation but their primary focus is the health and wellbeing of mother and baby.”
Bronwyn says that doulas and midwives know how to ‘be with a woman’ providing a safe and nurturing space to allow labour and birth to unfold as it should. Doulas often also provide other birth related services including childbirth education classes, pre- and postnatal yoga, postnatal doula support, and even placenta encapsulation. Bronwyn provides a full spectrum of holistic care and support including hypnobirthing courses, pregnancy, birth and postnatal support, placenta encapsulation and also professional birth photography.
When the majority of women find out they are expecting, their doctor is often the first point of contact. “The GP will refer you to a public hospital or to the obstetrician of their choice,” explains Mary Young from the Sunshine Coast’s Know Your Midwife, a private practice group of experienced midwives, offering continuity of care from conception through to parenthood. She says that doctors are like “gatekeepers” to maternity care.
So, if you have an idea about how you’d like to give birth, it is best to raise it with your doctor, or at least do some research of your own. “You have to do the research because unless you start searching or come across another way by word of mouth, the majority of women simply do exactly what their GP says,” Mary explains. “You need to look for what suits you.”
Coast Life Midwifery: Visit www.coastlifemidwifery.com.au or call 07 5443 5555
Kindred Birth: Visit www.kindredbirth.com.au or call 0400 551 977
Know Your Midwife: Visit www.knowyourmidwife.com.au or call 0400 901 437