Giving birth - a private or public hospital?

We are searching for parents who have had a baby in the last five years.

We want to know whether you chose public care or a private obstetrician and whether you went to a public or private hospital and how this affected your experience. Did this have an impact on your care, comfort, costs or facilities, and would you change your cover or do things differently if you had the chance? Please share your experience below, or email

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@S.Tan @elizarose - thought you might have an opinion on this? If not, feel free to disregard.

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I gave birth in a public hospital as a public patient and this was at RPA in Sydney. I don’t think it made any difference whether I would have gone to this hospital as a private or public hospital as they were super busy at the time and wouldn’t have been able to give me my own room.
We had private health insurance that covered maternity and baby care in private or public hospitals but we decided not to use it.
We would make the same choice again.
I had a pretty awful labour and delivery and my after care from nursing staff was pretty poor.

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I had my first three babies in a private hospital with my own obstetrician. I liked the fact that the doctor took factors that concerned me, including hubby having to go away with work, into consideration and induced me on 2 occasions. All three babies I chose to have an epidural and all my wishes were given respectful consideration. This was in a regional private hospital. For my next two pregnancies we had moved to a smaller rural location and the closest private hospital was over an hour away and while many locals do travel for the birth I chose not to so as to not end up so far from my family. Initially I was very concerned with going as a private patient in a public rural hospital because personal choice was much less of a consideration and the local obstetric GPs and hospital doctors prefer to let things run their course, ie, inductions are rare and epidurals not common. My fourth baby was 8 days overdue and arrived in an hour and 20 minutes. My doctor didn’t make it, the midwives caught the baby. I was essentially their only patient for my five day stay and apart from the fact that the maternity ward was a thoroughfare to another ward, I was very happy with my stay. My last baby was induced locally as there were to be no obstetrics anywhere in the area on my due date due to a national conference and my GP believed my labour would be too fast to travel. He was right. While I am happy with all my births and all of my choices, I definitely preferred the last 2 where I felt confident and in control, and completely lucid without any pain relief.


My first was delivered by unnecessary Caesarean section. I was under a private OB who was on leave and his stand in coerced and railroaded me into a CS which had catastrophic affects on my son who suffered a severe condition called PPHN which i believe was a direct result of the CS. There is evidence to support this.
My second baby i hired an independent midwife and was planning on giving birth in a public hospital but ended up having a planned homebirth. Best decision i ever made.
I am now actively involved in womens rights in childbirth.


Hi Uta

I had my baby in the birth centre at RPA (public). I had a wonderful experience in the birth centre and would definitely go back there if I have any more babies. I was moved to the wards after about 4 hrs (which is standard) and put into a shared room on a VERY busy ward at about 7pm that night. I was pretty much left to my own devices. I demanded to be let home the next day and that was allowed. I have to say the home visit midwife was excellent and I would recommend this to anyone in the public system.

PROS: Free, birth centre midwives were wonderful. Home visit midwife was attentive and excellent - I felt like i got more attention at home than in a busy ward competing against other new mums.

CONS: Wards felt impersonal and noisy. I was in a shared room, but I wouldn’t have slept anyway due to all the alarms and noise.

Overall I would do the same again - but I had a straight forward low risk birth with no complications. I dont feel that the overall experience for private is worth the price tag.


My son was born via Caesarean in a private hospital at 35 weeks. He required immediate breathing support and was taken to SCN with CPAP. He was shortly transferred to the Childrens Hospital where he was diagnosed with a severe Pulmonary complication as a result of the Caesarean. I handed over my PI card and it was all covered.

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My wife had a good experience at figtree private - everything was done well by the whole team. The help from midwifes afterwards was very good, and the obstetrician (who we both liked very much) was good at “butting out” when his bit was done. We had a bit of a silly argument with the midwifes about whether we should leave day 2 (they wanted us to stay until day 5).

If we went to a public hospital we would use our private health insurance because there is no reason not to. We would only do that if we needed the higher level of technical care available there. We preferred to go to the private hospital because both being nurses it was nice to be relatively anonymous.

PROS - professional and caring outfit - very much got what we wanted, which was safe and effective care, that let us focus on the stuff of parenting and being a family

CONS - surprisingly few - ghastly food

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Thank you very much for sharing your experiences, it is very helpful. It is interesting to see how different the experiences are. Please keep them coming.

Hi Uta,

We decided to go public for both of our kids after much research and consultation. We discounted homebirth fairly quickly as the life of child and mother and quality of birth experience was of utmost importance to us.

I had worked in a public hospital previously and also have a good friend who is an obstetrician (who mainly does private work now in a different state to us). To us it was the knowledge that the public system had not only the facilities but also the skilled staff for all situations (should they arise).

The cost factor was of secondary importance. The care of mother and baby, prior to, during and post birth was of primary importance to us. The fact that we could obtain the best quality care and birthing experience through the public system ( … as an aside - I do not consider the public health system free as it is all paid by our taxes), was a clear and logical choice. We got all of this by going public. Friends who have also had babies recently and chose private, we believe, did not get any great benefit and were financially worse off.

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Hi, I sent you a PM.

Hi, I sent you a PM.

Hi Uta,

I gave birth in 2013 in a public hospital as a private patient. Owing to some complications, my obstetrician suggested me to go public as he felt that it was a high risk delivery. Fortunately, my daughter was born okay and I had a normal delivery. I , however, didn’t think I had a good experience despite being a private patient in a public system. I had to wait 2 hours for an epidural despite making it very clear that I needed one and to top it all I was injected at the wrong spot so it didn’t have any effect - on requesting for the anesthetic to come and have a look I was asked to wait again for more than an hour. Post delivery, I was moved to a private room but when asked for help with nurses at night time I was told that they had a full ward and were quite busy.

The very next afternoon I moved to the private hospital next street where I believe I had a more comfortable stay. My partner was allowed to spend the night with me and I was also able to receive quality time with the lactation consultants and nurses. If I were to have a baby again I would definitely opt for private - if I have low risk pregnancy /delivery.

Public hospitals are busy places, but there may be an ideological factor here:

Some healthcare professionals (some midwives in particular) have strong ideological beliefs in favour of “natural” birth, by which they mean minimal intervention amongst other things. That’s ok if it aligns with the woman’s preferences, but I have also seen midwives avoid avoiding passing on women’s requests e.g. for an epidural to the treating doctor.

I don’t know if this is more common in the public or the private sector, but I suspect worse in the public sector – probably private sector midwives are less likely to be ideological about these things. In a public hospital where you have never previously met your midwife and have no knowledge of whether they will support your request for analgaesia, the only way to avoid it I think is to tell the treating doctor what you want, in front of the midwife.

I went as a private patient in a public hospital. I was very happy with this decision. I’m less interested in the hospital being public or private and more interested in having my own OB. While I had a mostly straight forward pregnancy & birth I did experience some concerning bleeding in late pregnancy and on advice of my OB went straight to the fetal emergency ward at the hospital while she checked in with the team there. They did some routine checks but could not find out what was causing the bleeding so were just going to send me home. However as my private OB was checking in/overseeing they called her first & she checked if they had done a number of things in checking me out which they had not & she would not let them send me home til they had run those checks. The public Dr got off the phone & complained (in my hearing) to the nurses that she didn’t have time to do these things and was annoyed at my OB. They then discovered the reason for the bleeding & then my OB okayed me going home. That was when I realised that was a huge part of what I was paying for, as if I was a public patient I would have just been sent home. She was also excellent all round & I much preferred the consistency of care. I also had a wonderful midwife who worked at the OBs office. I met some lovely midwives through the hospital classes & delivery but the one thing which struck me was that the hospital midwives & Drs appeared extremely underesourced. So of course something has to give. And if I was to experience any difficulties with my pregnancy or birth I’d much prefer private over public. Though I’ve heard from plenty of people who had great experiences going public at the same hospital

Despite having private hospital cover I chose to give birth as a public patient at a public hospital (Osborne Park Hospital) and have been really happy with the whole experience- including the care I received beforehand (from 20 weeks) at the clinics, and from the physiotherapists, as well as the prenatal exercise and education classes. The hospital has wonderful staff who always made me feel like they had time for me (unlike my experience with private physios and GPs) and plenty of expertise. Occasionally the wait times were long at the check ups, but at other times they were fine.

The birth itself, an emergency cesarian, was handled well, and I felt safe in their hands at all times. The birth suites there are excellent too (spacious, pleasantly decorated and well equipped with a kitchenette, couch and TV as well as all the hospital stuff).

Post-birth I got excellent care from the midwives as well as the doctors I dealt with, and was encouraged to stay a bit longer to get breastfeeding established rather than being hurried out. Most surprisingly, I thought the food was really good. The one downside was that the wards are shared, which I expect would be a deal breaker for some.

The care didn’t end when I left the hospital either- I got help from a lactation consultant, who saved me from most likely giving up on breast feeding, and more help from the physio. The hospital also runs physio-lead post-natal exercise classes to aid in recovery.

Frankly, I’m stoked by the quality of care I received (all free), and it left me really impressed with the state of public health care. I suppose not all public hospitals would be of the same standard but I’d recommend this hospital to anyone- as long as you can live without a private room.

Just an additional note, looking back on what I wrote, I realise that if I hadn’t been going via the public system, I would have hesitated to go to the various experts - the lactation consultant and physio - when I needed to, as well as the physio-lead exercise classes. It’s hard to know before an appointment whether they’ll be able to help you and whether they’ll be worth the money. Seeing them early on almost certainly prevents longer term problems (and future health care spending by the government).

So in my case, this was an additional benefit, but perhaps if you have top private extras cover, or have ample money, it won’t make a difference for you.

Here’s an updated look on how health insurance can impact your pregnancy and birth (member content):

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