I got pregnant with my firstborn during working in Singapore. So far, the prenatal checkups were similar to how it’s normally done in my home country, Philippines: You choose an OB, decide which hospital to give birth, have monthly checkups, and then if you want, you can tell your doctor your preferred method of birth.
In Australia, however, things are different. We are new to Australia, being Visa 189 holders. It took me awhile before understanding the whole process of pregnancy care here as it was very new to me and, yes, different. In this article, I write about what to do when you find out you’re pregnant and new to Australia.
The information here is primarily based on my experience AND the general process of how pregnancy care works around here. There are still many variable factors that can make your experience not exactly similar to mine.
Some examples of variable factors:
- whether you avail of public health service exclusively OR you have private insurance
- your residence address
- your preferred clinic or GP
- your ultrasound fees (out-of-expenses can range from $100-$250)
- when making appointments (slots can run out quickly too so better make your appointments at least a month early!)
The pregnancy test say positive! Now what?
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, get in touch with a General Practitioner (GP) at any clinic. Make an appointment, walk-ins are also welcomed. But making an appointment before showing up at any place is always the norm around.
During your first checkup, you will be:
- asked questions about your health and previous pregnancies
- asked the first day of your last menstrual period to calculate your EDD
- referred for ultrasound, blood and urine tests to a pathology center. The GP will give you at least two referral letters: one that shows the necessary tests you have to take and you will present it to a pathology center of your choice. Second, a letter that shows you need an ultrasound. You will be the one to make the appointment with the clinics. If you do not want any out-of-pocket expenses, make sure to ask about bulk-billing.
If you’re looking for a bulk-billed imaging clinic, check out these centers:
Brunswick Medical Imaging
82 Moreland Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056
Phone: (03) 9383 6266
Glenroy Diagnostic Imaging
129/135 Wheatsheaf Rd, Glenroy VIC 3046
Phone: 9300 1000
For pathology centers, any Dorevitch Pathology clinics should be able to give you bulk-billed fees. Check your nearest Dorevitch.
What is bulk-billing?
What it means for you is that Medicare (the healthcare system in Australia) will cover any costs that you incur in a clinic, medical center, hospital, etc. There should be no out-of-pocket expenses as long as you present your Medicare card. Always ask if a clinic does bulk-billing during making appointments.
Where to get your pregnancy supplements?
You will buy all your pregnancy multivitamins/ supplements online or at the chemist (the term for pharmacy here), not in the clinic.
Based on the results of the blood and urine tests, the GP will advise you if you would need additional supplement other than the usual pregnancy supplements. In Australia, it is common to be low in Vitamin D due to being mostly indoors during the cold seasons. You may be asked to take a Vitamin D supplement.
What you generally need to know about pregnancy care in Australia
- If you choose public health exclusively (i.e. no health insurance), you cannot choose your OB or hospital.
- Your hospital of birth depends on where you live. The term commonly used is ‘catchment area’. You must live in a hospital’s catchment area to be referred to that hospital. And you will see and be checked up with midwives and doctors that are available in that hospital.
- But if your pregnancy is high-risk and complicated, you will be referred one of Victoria’s tertiary hospitals to receive a specialist’s care. The three tertiary hospitals are the Women’s, Monash Health, and Mercy Hospital for Women.
- As a public patient in a public hospital, all your hospital costs will be covered by Medicare.
- However, if you choose to be a private patient in either a public or private hospital, you will need a private health insurance coverage and must prepare for the out-of-pocket expenses. By having a private health insurance, you can choose your OB and your hospital of birth.
- During checkups with GP, there are no ultrasound machines available to scan your tummy. Ultrasounds are done only during certain checkups, which are referred to imaging clinics, not in your GP’s clinic.
- You may not see the same GPs, midwives, OBs, or doctors throughout your pregnancy. It depends on who is available.
- If your pregnancy is healthy and normally progressing, GPs will do your antenatal care and midwives will deliver your baby. Doctors/ OBs delivery only when a cesarean surgery is required or when the pregnancy is high-risk or complicated.
You will have a Morphology scan at 20 weeks.
Around 11-13 weeks, you have the option to take a Nuchal translucency testing, which determines if your baby has a risk of getting Down Syndrome. It normally costs around $250 and is not covered by Medicare. It is optional too.
There are other scans available that you can take. So far, only the Morphology scan (also called fetal anomaly scan) is covered by Medicare. It is also an important and mandatory scan as it will check your baby’s organs, determine his/ her overall general health, and any complications can be detected by this time too. You can also learn the gender of your baby’s scan during this scan! Read more about morphology scan here.
TIP: Out of at least ten clinics that we called, only Bridge Rd Imaging – Richmond offers bulk-billed morphology scan.
- Address: 84 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC 3121
- Phone: (03) 9242 4888
Between 13-20 weeks, you will be referred to your local maternity hospital.
The period of your pregnancy which you will be referred to your hospital highly depends on your GP. Some of my friends were referred as early as 13 weeks while I was referred so late. The midwife at the hospital commented as well that I was referred late. Good thing the midwife clearly knows what to do and she put things in place for me. I asked my GP about why I was referred to the hospital so late. By the way, I was seeing at least three GPs and they seem to have conflicting answers as to why this was so. They say they are a shared care?!?! Anyway! Just make sure to be seen a GP that you like by going to the clinic when she is in. Anyway!
By the time you are already referred to your local hospital, you continue your checkups at the hospital, not with the GPs anymore. The checkups will be more frequent especially during the third trimester.
Make sure to attend maternity tours at your hospitals too.You can also attend breastfeeding classes. Check for the schedule at the hospital.
By this time, the first trimester is completed, you’ll get an energy boost, and your ‘nesting’ urge kicks. Make use of this energy to prepare your newborn essentials. Download our newborn essentials checklist here.
At 26 weeks, you will get a glucose tolerance test (GTT) to check for gestational diabetes.
The test involves fasting for 8-10 hours before the test, having three blood samples injected from your arm every one hour (thus you are to stay in the clinic for at least 2 hours), and drinking a sweet liquid.
After the 26th week, you are advised (or required) get vaccinated for whooping cough. Vaccination is also required for those who will be in contact with your newborn, including fathers and other primary caregivers. It is available at your GP’s clinic and can be bulk-billed.
At 40 weeks, you say hello to your new bundle of joy!
And then another beautiful and challenging journey begins, taking care of your sweet newborn. You can do this mommy!