Pregnancy and Birth Care in the US vs Australia, Part 1

My husband and I found out a couple of weeks ago that I am going to give birth to our second child!

We are both so excited! Our kids will be almost exactly two years apart, give or take a week or two.

Pregnancy and Birth Care in the US vs Australia, Part 1
She’s very excited about becoming a big sis!

Our first daughter, Hannah, is18 months old. She was born in Sydney, Australia, where her dad and I met. Because I was a permanent resident in Australia, although not a citizen, my residency entitled me use of their amazing public healthcare for my first birth. I have to admit, at first the system confused me. There were no co-pays, no bills, and strangest of all, no doctors!

I met with the same midwife, Amy, monthly, and then later on weekly.

She checked the baby’s heart beat, measured my belly, and checked my blood pressure. I never had an internal exam throughout my pregnancy. In fact, I  paid more in parking bills than medical bills at the end of it all! I read up about water births and decided I wanted to try it.

Amy toured the birth center with me, where I saw the nice birth suite that I would be in. It boasted a rocking chair, a queen size bed, a shower, a dresser, a birthing ball, and a yoga mat. Best of all, the room had a large tub for the water birth. Amy also recommended an acupuncturist to me when I was 39 weeks. I went in, they put some needles in me, and 8 hours later, four of which I spent in labor, I sat in the tub with my newborn daughter. The whole process could not have been smoother – or cheaper!

Pregnancy and Birth Care in the US vs Australia, Part 1
In the birth suite at the public hospital in Sydney.

Ok, so how did we end up in Atlanta, Georgia?

We moved over to the US (my homeland) when our daughter was six weeks old. It was important to us to be close to family. My husband and I also had goals of buying our first home together. Flash forward 18 months -and we are in that first home and pregnant. Best of all, almost a family of four!

Now for the next step in our journey.

Time to figure out where I would like to give birth to our second child. I did some research and found the Atlanta Birthing Center. It seemed perfect. It is modern, they have several midwives, who have delivered over 1000 babies- each! Conveniently, it’s located 15 minutes from our house. I could not be happier after touring the facilities. Their birthing suites looked better than what I had in Sydney! At the end of the tour, we asked the midwives questions openly.

One of the first questions involved insurance.

An expecting mother raised her hand and simply asked, “Do you take insurance?” And the answer….NO. The Atlanta Birth Center does not take ANY insurance. I couldn’t believe it. At this point in time, they are not in network with any insurance providers. Therefore, you will pay out of your own pocket, a minimum of $5000 to have your baby there. There is a small discount if you pay at your first appointment, but that was not something my husband or I could afford to do. I was so shocked because I thought birth centers were more affordable than hospitals, not the other way around.

So, feeling defeated, I made my first appointment at the hospital, with an OB-GYN

My husband went with me to the appointment, which made me feel more at ease. Still, I knew deep down this was not what I wanted. Upon arrival we filled out paperwork after paperwork. We arrived half an hour early to our 10:00 appointment. So after we filled everything out, the doctor saw us immediately, which was great.

I was only 9.5 weeks pregnant at this point. Mainly, we wanted to find out an accurate due date. To my surprise, the ultrasound technician asked me to take off my bottoms-  she wanted to do an internal ultrasound. I obliged and we got to see our little baby wiggling around.

However, in the back of my mind, I wondered why we needed to do something so invasive. We had an external ultrasound at 9 weeks with my first daughter and we could see her just fine. After the ultrasound, we met the doctor who was very friendly. She asked if we had any questions. I asked about water births, and unfortunately, it wasn’t an option there. She explained to me that most patients give birth on the hospital bed with an epidural. Then, they gave me a shopping bag full of free prenatal vitamins, scheduled a 12 week ultrasound, and sent me on my way.

Over the next two weeks, I thought long and hard about my plans for my birth.

Why should I have to give up how I wanted to bring a child into the world because of cost? It didn’t seem fair and the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I felt with changing my plan. It was actually keeping me up at night and creating unnecessary stress, which is never healthy.

I did more research, mostly through Facebook Mother’s Groups that I’m a member of, and I found Intown Midwifery. Their website states, “we firmly believe in a woman’s right to choose what works best for her during childbirth and support those desires, be it a natural birth, a medicated birth or a water birth.”

 I, of course, rung them straight away to find out if they took our insurance. What a relief to find out that they DO!! Woohoo! Not only do they accept our insurance, but they remained up front. They explained to me how many ultrasounds our insurance would cover, and talked at length with me about genetic testing. The receptionist expressed to me her surprise that the hospital had scheduled a second ultrasound at 12 weeks- because my insurance would most likely only cover two ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy! This means if we wanted to find out the gender, or if we happened to need one further along, we would have to pay out of pocket.

I was so happy to find a place that was upfront in informing me about all the hidden costs. Not only that, but they were very supportive of my birth plan.

I met with two of the midwives yesterday and I loved their demeanor and their kind nature

I’m so glad that we’ve found a place that supports our plans, although it took some time to find!

I’m sure there will be other differences between this pregnancy and birth, and my first. But as long as I have a happy, healthy baby in the end, that’s all that really matters. I hope this blog inspires other moms to do your research. You don’t have to give up on what you want and succumb to what you think you can afford, or to the “norm”.

You have options. Talk to other moms, listen to their stories, and do what works best for you and your baby – not what works best for the doctor, or the health insurance industry.

 

Emily Anderson

Emily Anderson

Mommy Blogger at Prams & Lattes
Originally from New Jersey, but moved to Australia when I was 25. While in Australia, I met my husband and we've been married two years now. In April 2015, we had our first child, Hannah. Since having Hannah, I have taken a break from working in real estate and moved to Atlanta, Georgia with our little family. I am learning daily about being a mom and enjoying every minute of bonding with my daughter. I'm excited to share my experiences with other moms who are interested in learning about breastfeeding and other fun mommy stuff!
Emily Anderson

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