Your Health Care Team
Pregnancy and birth are events worthy of a team effort. Who is in your health care team will depend on your model of care and the health of you and your baby.
Midwives are the guardians of normal birth, specialising in pregnancy, birth, and postnatal care that starts low risk and stays that way. If your pregnancy and birth are uncomplicated, midwives may be the only care providers you see. They are trained to identify abnormal in pregnancy and birth and will consult with other health professionals if needed. Please click here to read more about what midwives do.
Obstetricians are doctors specialising in pregnancy and childbirth. They often work in private hospitals, where women pay a fee. You will also find them in public hospitals, where they may also oversee trainee doctors (known as ‘registrars’ and ‘residents’). They become involved when a pregnancy or birth is no longer considered normal. Please click here to learn more about obstetricians.
General Practitioners (GP) are doctors who anyone can see for general health issues, but some GP’s have obstetric training and may provide your antenatal care. However, if your GP doesn’t offer this service you may need a referral to your local hospital.
Paediatricians and Neonatologists – paediatricians are doctors who specialise in babies and children, whereas a neonatologist is a paediatrician who specialises in newborns. One of these doctors may attend your birth if there are complications that may impact your baby. A paediatrician may also check your baby before you leave the hospital.
Lactation Consultant (LC) – specialise in breastfeeding issues and support. Most hospitals have lactation consultants, and they are often available in the community. Fees may apply.
Social workers support a safe and supported family environment, providing access to a range of services. Maternity carers may offer you a referral if they think you may benefit from this, or you can ask for a referral if you would like one. They are accessible through your hospital or community settings.
Students are health professionals in training. They may seek permission to take part in your care. This experience can enhance their learning and provide an extra pair of hands to support you. However, you can always say no to a student if you feel uncomfortable with this.
Some other health care providers you may come across include:
- Child health nurses specialise in early childhood care,
- Anaesthetists specialise in pain management, including epidural),
- Physiotherapists specialise in muscles and the functions they provide,
- Dieticians guide healthy eating,
- Doulas provide pregnancy, birth, & postnatal support – do not provide clinical care (e. antenatal check-ups),
- Sonographers perform ultrasounds
- Radiologists interpret ultrasound scans, and
- Naturopaths specialise in alternative remedies, to help the birthing process.
Having such a wide range of people involved in your care is excellent, especially when you have complications. Yet, there are also considerable challenges, because so many people in one room don’t always communicate very well! This can compromise your care.
You are the most critical person in your health care team because the passing of your information from one care provider to the next is often a case of Chinese whispers. By the time a woman’s story has passed through five different people, it might be completely different.
YOU are the only constant member of your health care team, so if your carers are not giving handover next to your bedside, and including you in your story, things often get missed.
Ask to be a part of your handover (insist if necessary).
Hayley Moyes (MMid), Clinical Midwife
Photo by ASDF_MEDIA, used under license from Shutterstock.com