Seeing your GP during pregnancy
If you think you might be pregnant, your first step is to see a general practitioner (GP). GPs are doctors who know about many health conditions, including pregnancy.
At this first appointment, the GP will usually:
- arrange a blood test to confirm your pregnancy, work out your estimated due date and check your health
- ask you about any previous pregnancies and your medical history
- recommend extra tests or an early ultrasound, depending on your age, medical history and previous pregnancies
- talk with you about pregnancy care options
- refer you to the place where you want to give birth or the health professionals you want to care for you.
After your first appointment, you might not see your GP again until about 6 weeks after birth. That is, unless you choose GP shared care or you live in a rural area.
If you choose shared care or live in certain rural areas, some or all of your regular pregnancy appointments might be with your GP. And your GP might be at the birth.
What is GP shared care?
GP shared care is an arrangement between a GP and a birthing hospital or other birth setting. You see your GP for most pregnancy appointments, and you also have appointments at the hospital in early and later pregnancy.
Most public hospitals offer GP shared care. Some birth centres attached to public hospitals offer GP shared care.
Most private hospitals and homebirths don’t offer GP shared care. If you want this option, you’ll need to check with your GP if they have an agreement with these birth settings. You can also ask your private hospital or homebirth midwife if GP shared care is available.
In Australia, GPs who provide shared care must have extra training and qualifications and a special agreement with a birthing hospital or other birth setting.
You can have shared care between your birth setting and other health professionals, like an obstetrician or a midwife, but this isn’t as common as GP shared care.
Why some women like GP shared care
Some pregnant women like GP shared care because they’re familiar with their GP, their GP knows their medical history, and the care is usually close to home. If English is your second language, your GP might speak your first language or use an interpreter and know about your cultural needs.
Some women also like to have the same GP care for them during their pregnancy and then continue caring for them and their child after birth and throughout childhood.
A GP who knows you and your family can help you make good choices about your care and your family’s care.
Arranging GP shared care
If you’re interested in GP shared care, check that your GP offers this service and is accredited with your hospital or other birth setting. Or you could check for GPs who offer GP shared care in your area by contacting your local maternity hospital or another birth setting directly.
Costs of shared care
If you’re eligible for Medicare and your GP bulk bills, your GP shared care appointments won’t cost you anything.
If the GP doesn’t bulk bill, you pay the difference between the GP fee and the Medicare rebate.
GP shared care might cost more than pregnancy care through a public hospital or birth centre. You might decide that the higher cost is worth the convenience and familiarity with your GP.
GP shared care is likely to cost less than seeing a private obstetrician during pregnancy. Private obstetricians aren’t covered by Medicare.
Other costs might include antenatal classes and some tests in pregnancy. It’s a good idea to talk to your GP about these costs.