Today is the start of the third trimester. In less than 3 months we should be meeting the new bub. When we arrived in Darwin I did not understand how the health care system worked and I had trouble finding information despite lots of internet searching so I thought I would write up a bit about our experience.
The first step once you discover you are pregnant is to contact a GP. You need to get a referral from a GP in order to get an antenatal appointment at the hospital. We did not have a regular GP so we just contacted one close to our house in Nightcliff. I saw the GP at 10 weeks and she asked a few questions, provided me with my orange health record (which you take to every antenatal appointment) and then I was sent to the lab for routine blood and urine tests. The GP will ask you where you want your referral sent. The GP I saw was not helpful and tried to pressure us into going to the private hospital. Before the GP can send a referral you need to decide if you want to go to the public hospital, a private obstetrician or shared care. There are also options such as homebirth that I will not discuss since I do not know much about it. There are three private OBs in Darwin but we decided to go with the public hospital. You can also select shared care, which means you see your GP for most visits and visit the OB at 37, 40 and 41 weeks and then deliver you baby in the hospital. Once you decide on which route you want to take, the GP will send a referral to the public hospital or OB. Within one week of the appointment we received a notice from Royal Darwin Hospital that they had booked our first appointment at 12 weeks.
At our first appointment we saw a midwife and an obstetrician. All the midwives we encountered at RDH have been fantastic. The midwife explained that because I had a low risk pregnancy we had three options for our antenatal care at the public hospital: shared care, midwives clinic or community midwifery practice. If we had been high risk we would have been in the antenatal clinic and had most of our appointments with an obstetrician. We had already decided against shared care since we did not have a GP we really loved and we felt comfortable with the midwives. The midwives clinic is on the 8th floor of the hospital and at each visit you see a different midwife and when you deliver, the midwife on duty will be present. The other option is the Community Midwifery Practice (CMP) which is on the ground floor at RDH. If you choose CMP, you are assigned a team of three midwives and you will see one of them at all your appointments, they will be with you at the birth and will visit you at home afterwards for up to three weeks. The CMP birthing suite is relatively new and much nicer than the upstairs delivery suites and from what I have seen are nicer than the delivery suites at the private hospital. The advantages of CMP are that you see the same group of midwives and you have a very nice private delivery suite. The birthing suites also have a pool available for water births. The disadvantage is if there are no complications with your delivery you are discharged after four hours and a midwife comes to your house the same day for a visit. The CMP program has a waiting list so if you want to be included you need to register your interest early on in your pregnancy. We asked at our 14 week appointment, were accepted into the program a few weeks later and have been seeing the CMP midwives since 18 weeks. We are extremely happy with the CMP program. The midwives are fantastic and it is nice to see the same faces each visit.
Once you have selected the level of care, the appointments are all pretty similar. We have appointments at 12, 18, 22, 28 32, 35, 37, 39 and 40 weeks. We also had an ultrasound at 20 weeks and a blood test for gestational diabetes at 27 weeks. I believe there are a couple more blood tests and we see the obstetrician at 37 weeks but otherwise that is the schedule for our visits. If you are a new to Australia and here on a temporary visa (for example, we are on a 457 visa) the costs of your maternity care will not be covered. We have health insurance but there is a 1-year waiting period for maternity costs. In Darwin, the midwives visits are $98 and the ultrasound is $120. I have been keeping detailed records on the costs and after the birth I will write up a detailed post of the expenses.