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Australia - Birth

If you fall pregnant while living in Australia you will have the right to the same level of maternity care as anyone else in the country regardless of your immigration status. However, not all birthing options will be open to you. This can also change depending on the type of medical insurance you have and the area that you live in. Prior to your delivery date, you must decide where you want to give birth and who you want to care for you during your maternity period.

Deciding where you want to give birth is very important for several reasons and costs play a huge factor. You have the choice of several options for where you have your baby. If you can afford it, you can choose private facilities. The cost of private hospitals may not be covered under your health insurance so you must check prior to choosing this option whether you can afford to cover all additional costs that your insurance may not.

Public hospitals are covered by medical insurance and all that is needed is to be referred by your doctor in order to be seen by them. Prenatal care will also take place at the hospital if your pregnancy is considered high risk; otherwise you will have your prenatal care at your doctor’s office as standard.

You can have the option of a home birth but this is only available for those who have a low risk pregnancy. Not all medical insurance policies will cover a home birth so cost may be a factor for some people when considering this option. You can also choose to have a home birth in a birthing centre. The birthing centre is set up to be a much more sterile environment than an actual home birth although the birthing style will remain the same. If you are considering having the birth at your home then you must be aware of all the possible risks associated with this type of birthing option. There will not be the variety and availability of medical equipment and facilities you will have at a hospital and if a problem occurs during the birthing process there may be an issue with getting help in a timely manner.

Once you have chosen where you are going to give birth, you must then decide on who will care for you during your pregnancy. Midwives play a large part in the pregnancy, and are usually on hand all through the pregnancy term, through the birthing process and the early care and development of the child. The midwives in Australia have a more active role than they do in other nations.

Your other options for your care during your pregnancy could be your general practitioner or an obstetrician, although if your pregnancy is considered low risk and you have chosen to give birth at a public hospital you will not generally be seen by an obstetrician.

Unpaid maternity leave is guaranteed by both federal and state laws in Australia. All employed women whether it is full or part time; as long as they have been with their current employer at least 12 months, are entitled to maternity leave of up to 52 weeks. Maternity leave cannot continue past your child’s first birthday. The same period of maternity leave is also available to casual workers, although they must have been regularly employed by the same company/person for at least 12 months.

10 weeks written notice is required prior to starting maternity leave. This is the same whether you want to keep working up until your due date or you want to start maternity leave earlier than that. Included with your 10 weeks’ notice must be a medical certificate which clearly confirms your pregnancy and your expected due date.

Partners are also eligible for paternity leave although generally this is much shorter than for the expectant mother. Partners are allowed up to one week after the birth of their child. If the male partner is to be the primary care giver of the child then they are entitled to the full 52 weeks leave. In Australia, the paternity, or partner leave, is also applicable to same sex couples in certain circumstances.

Although each state of Australia may have slightly different regulations regarding registering the birth of a child the basics are the same across the board. The birth of a child must be registered within 60 days of that child being born. Full details of the birth must be given to the registry office via a Birth Registration Statement form that is supplied by the hospital where the child was born. This must be sent to the registry office that will then provide you with a birth certificate. There is no fee for registering a birth. Copies of the birth certificate are available at any time to the child, the parents or the legal guardian of the child, although fees may apply. Due to confidentiality and privacy laws no other persons will be allowed access to the birth certificate information.

If you have chosen a home birth then you must send your Birth Registration Statement form along with a notification of birth from a witness who saw the birth taking place, for example the midwife on hand to offer care throughout the birthing process. If the birth was unexpected then the child must be taken to a hospital within 24 hours of birth, who will then notify the registry and supply you with a Birth Registration Statement.

If the parents decide to make changes to the child’s name after the birth certificate has been issued then a ‘Change of Name’ form must be completed and sent back to the registry office. The change to the birth certificate will have fees applied.

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