‘I had two babies privately and one in the public system. Here’s the difference.’

Video by Mamamia

More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean the best.

There are plenty of examples and if I use my $5 block of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate versus a box chocolate truffles for $25.99 I will probably cause offence.

Because I’m talking about having babies here. And what type of chocolate you prefer and what type of hospital you have your baby in are very different things.

(Still, I’ll take supermarket Cadbury Dairy Milk over imported chocolate truffles any day. Just saying.)

I’ve had three kids and three very different birth stories. All of them were brilliant because they resulted in a healthy, beautiful baby, but one of them was different to the others.

On our Hello Bump podcast we ask Public or Private hospital for you and your baby.

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For my first two I went private and had an obstetrician.

He was the calmest, loveliest man, but as anyone who has had a baby will tell you his job was the delivery of a healthy baby and mother not the emotional care of a woman during pregnancy.

Added to this when it came to the pointy end of my pregnancy where I was in labour I only saw him at the very end – for the very stingy (I don’t want to scare the children) delivery part.

But I was very glad to see him and he did actually catch the baby – both times. He did his job well and two healthy baby girls were delivered. The first coming in at 4.4 kgs and the second smaller at 3.9kg. I was healthy too.

A healthy baby is all you want. Image via iStock.

By the time it came to my third child, five years after my first, I had started to question a few things and think more critically about babies, birth and me.

With two (thankfully) uneventful pregnancies and labours I decided I mightn't need an obstetrician and a private hospital and I couldn't help weighing up the very different costs involved in both scenarios.

So the third time, I ended up going public. A midwife delivered my baby and it was a brilliant birth resulting in another girl weighing nearly as much as her eldest sister. 4.3 kgs, beautiful and I was healthy - and very happy - too.

So what is the moral of this story? Every woman is different and requires a differing level of care during her pregnancy and birth, but for me the public system didn't work just as well as the private - it worked better.

These are the key differences (for me):

  • The midwife in the public system stayed with me. I kept thinking when is she - her name was Kim - going to leave, because that had been my experience in a private hospital. The midwife in the private hospital would come in, ask a couple of questions, check on a few things and leave. Even through my fog of contractions and the enormity of bringing a new life into the world with baby one and two, I could tell the midwife attending to me was rushed and had to be somewhere else.
  • Instead of being offered drugs the first time I asked, Kim talked to me, she built me up, she encouraged me and explained where I was at in my labour. I ended up going drug-free even though I begged asked her for drugs.
  • In the private system, when I asked what are my options for pain relief I was told by the midwife to "Go the big guns now, don't even bother with anything other than an epidural". There was no cheerleading, no coaching like I had seen in the movies. My husband and I spent most of the time in the delivery suite by ourselves. Looking back it felt like the midwife was stretched too far and simply did not have time for old-fashioned support.
  • This probably sounds like a small one, but it was huge for me. Going to an obstetrician's office for check-ups during my pregnancy felt very business like. Test the wee. Check a few things. Do I have any questions? During my visits to the midwives one of my fondest memories was walking into the check-up room when I was about 37 weeks pregnant where, as I plonked myself down in a vinyl seat, I was asked the obligatory, "How are you going?". I kind of lost it. I said I was tired. I said I was over it. I talked - in great detail - about my hemorrhoids. I've never spoken to anyone about my hemorrhoids (my husband doesn't count). And she comforted me. She came around stood beside me and patted my shoulder and told me how well I was doing and no wonder I was tired with two toddlers and pregnant with my third. She built me up, gave me the sympathy I needed because I had started to feel like a walking baby vessel not a person. That kind of intuition about what I needed emotionally happened a lot.
  • In terms of care after the baby was born, with my second baby in the private hospital I was put into an orthopedic ward as there was no room in maternity. It was awful. I was far away from maternity nurses and I'm glad it was my second baby because it felt devastating lying in my room with my new, fresh baby listening to the cries of an elderly woman in pain next door. If it was my first baby I simply would not have coped.
  • In the public hospital I had to share a room - and bathroom - post-birth with a first time mum. You could whip around the curtain for privacy and it honestly was no big deal. I also had an early discharge.

Hospitals are not chocolate. Babies are not chocolate either, but they are delicious. At the end of it all, as with all births, I had three babies and three very different birth stories.

Would I recommend going public with a midwife? Absolutely. It was exactly the birth I needed.

What have been your experiences of public vs private health when it comes to maternity care. 

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