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How a GP can assist with antenatal care

Pregnant woman in doctors appointment

General practitioners (GPs) are medical doctors who promote general health and treat many different health problems. Your GP is likely to be the first health professional you see when you become pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant. They can talk to you about your options for pregnancy care and the birth. Your choices, and the facilities available where you live, will determine the role your doctor will play.

Some GPs offer shared care, where you see your GP as well as midwives or obstetricians for your pregnancy care. If you live in a rural or remote area, your GP might provide all of your pregnancy care as well as deliver your baby.

Your first GP appointment

You should visit your GP if you find out, or suspect, that you are pregnant. Many women visit their GP first then get a referral to a hospital, obstetrician, birth centre or private midwife. While such referrals aren’t always essential, they can provide useful information for the person or centre caring for you during your pregnancy, and will encourage the sharing of information from that person or centre back to your GP.

At this first appointment, your 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’d like to give birth or the health professionals you’d like to care for you.

After your first appointment, you might not see your GP again until about six weeks after birth. That is, unless you live in a rural area or you choose shared care.

What is shared care?

Shared care is an arrangement between a GP and a birthing hospital or other birth setting. You see your GP for some 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 midwife, but this isn’t as common as GP shared care.

Why some women like shared care

Some women like 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. A GP who knows you can help you make good choices about your care.

Arranging shared care

If you’re interested in 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 shared care in your area by contacting your local maternity hospital or another birth setting directly.

At Junction Road Family Practice, we are proud to offer maternity shared care services – get in touch with us directly on (07) 3857 2799 if you have any questions or want to talk about your antenatal options.

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