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Cost of childbirth in Australia: Public vs private costs

Prenatal care in Australia is covered by Medicare, meaning it’s mostly free through the public system. You can choose to go private, which comes with a lot of benefits – but there are out-of-pocket expenses to watch out for.

Raising a child is expensive. Thanks to Medicare, childbirth doesn't need to be. Antenatal care during pregnancy and birth is mainly free through the public healthcare system – though there are a couple of exceptions where Medicare falls short.

You also have the option to go private in Australia. Gold level health insurance can cover a large portion of the costs, but there can still be significant out-of-pocket expenses.

Costs can vary massively though. 2024 research shows you could be spending more than $12,000 in the private system.

We've spoken to several women who have had children both through the public and private system, and broken down the costs associated with childbirth, from the first GP appointment up to postnatal care and pain management after childbirth.

You can find an overview of it all in this table or jump to a more detailed explanation below.

Key statistics

  • We surveyed over 1,000 people as part of our parenting report. On average, Australians spent $726 for childbirth in the public system. Those with private health insurance had an average of $2,400 in out-of-pocket expenses.
  • The top reason parents would go private for their next birth is for better quality of treatment or care, closely followed by the ability to choose their own obstetrician, according to our Finder survey.
  • Almost 2 in 5 (38%) people surveyed said the quality of treatment and care in public is just as good as it is in private.
  • You can get health insurance for pregnancy from $216 a month. You'll need to hold cover for 12 months before you are covered.
  • The average bronze hospital cover premium is $98.84 a month for a single policy (without pregnancy cover) compared to the average gold hospital cover premium of $219.35 a month for a single policy (includes pregnancy cover).

Approximate out-of-pocket costs of pregnancy and childbirth

.

.

Service or treatmentPublic patient:
Covered in the public system
Private patient:
Covered by private health insurance
Private patient:
Not covered health insurance
Initial GP appointment to confirm pregnancyFree if bulk billed, otherwise out-of-pocket cost applies. This cost is not covered by health insurance.
Out-of-pocket cost usually ~ $30-$100.
Same with public patientSame with public patient
Follow-up appointments with the doctorFree if bulk billed, otherwise out-of-pocket cost applies. This cost is not covered by health insurance.
Out-of-pocket usually ~ $30-$100.
Same with public patientSame with public patient
Prenatal care – obstetrician appointmentsGenerally not available in the public system. You can access the OB program but don't get your choice of doctor.You can choose which private OB you would like to see. Appointments are not covered by health insurance, but you can claim around $40 per appointment with Medicare. There are usually around 12 appointments throughout a standard, low-risk pregnancy and appointments are $100–$200 each. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $720–$1,920.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Prenatal care – midwife appointmentsYou can access the midwife program through the hospital, but usually don't get your choice of practitioner.You can choose which private midwife you would like to see. Appoinments are not covered by health insurance, but you can claim around $40 per appointment with Medicare. There are usually around 12 appoinments throughout a standard, low-risk pregnancy and appointments are $100–$200 each. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $720–$1,920.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Genetic testing e.g. NIPTNIPT is not rebated by Medicare and is not covered by private health insurance. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $400-$450.Same with public patientSame with public patient
Ultrasound – Eearly pregnancy dating scan (7-9 weeks)Free through the hospital.Basic scans may be performed in OB office. Cost $200-$350, with a Medicare rebate of around $55. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $145-$245.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Ultrasound – pregnancy dating scan (9-12 weeks)Free through the hospital.Basic scans may be performed in OB office. Cost $300-$350, with a Medicare rebate of around $55. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $245-$295.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Ultrasound - nuchal translucency or first trimester morphology scan (12–14 weeks)Free through the hospital.Cost $300-$350, with a Medicare rebate of around $65. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $235-$285.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Ultrasound - second trimester morphology (18-20 weeks)Free through the hospital.Cost $350-$500, with a Medicare rebate of around $95. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $245-$405.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Ultrasound - foetal growth, 28 weeks onwardsFree through the hospital if medically necessary.Cost $350-$500, with a Medicare rebate of around $55. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $245-$295.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Blood testsFree, covered by Medicare.Same with public patientSame with public patient
Glucose tolerance test for diabetesFree, covered by Medicare.Same with public patientSame with public patient
Antenatal classesMay be offered for free through the hospital.Covered if you have the right level of extras cover.$300–$500.
Delivery (theatre fees) – vaginal deliveryFree through the hospital.The delivery and birthing suite is covered. The OB fees are usually covered through the no-gap scheme, but it's worth checking.Delivery and birthing suite for standard delivery can be $1,000-$1,250
C-sectionFree through the hospital.The delivery and birthing suite is covered. The OB fees are usually covered through the no-gap scheme, but it's worth checking.Delivery and birthing suite for C-section delivery can be $1,250-$1,500
Anaesthetist for epiduralFree through the hospital.Some of the fee is covered by Medicare. Insurers set an upper limit for how much they'll pay over the MBS fee called the no-gap threshold. If your anaesthetist charges above the MBS fee, but under the no-gap threshold, you'll have no out-of-pocket costs. Otherwise, you could be out of pocket up to ~ $500.Some of the fee is covered by Medicare. You'll be out of pocket for the rest of the fee, ~ $500–$1,000.
Obstetrician pregnancy management feeN/A.Receive between $300 and $500 back on Medicare. If your doctor participates in the no-gap fee program, you're out of pocket the remainder, usually ~ $2,500–$4,000.Receive between $300 and $500 back on Medicare. You're out of pocket the remainder, usually ~ $3,000–$5,000.
Paediatrician fees in hospitalFree through the hospital.Total cost $350–$500 for an initial consult at birth and subsequent daily visits, with Medicare rebates worth around $200. Out-of-pocket cost ~ $150-$300.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Stay in hospitalYes, usually a shared room with other patients, for 1 night.A private room for 4 nights is covered.A private room for 4 nights usually costs around $750-$1,250 a night or $3,000-$5,000 total.
Home birthVery few public hospitals provide home births that are covered by Medicare. As a guide, out-of-pocket costs can be around $5,000.Same with public patientSame with public patient
Partner's food in hospitalN/A.Not covered by private health insurance – out of pocket ~ $200.$200
Midwife visits after birthFree through the hospital.May be offered for free as part of your OB or midwife program. Otherwise, private midwife visits can range from $100 each to $1,200 for a program.Same with private patient covered by health insurance
Postnatal servicesNo.Yes, with extras cover.$0-$400.

Where do out-of-pocket expenses come from?

Before we dive into the specific costs, it's worth understanding exactly why you sometimes have out-of-pocket expenses when you go to a privately owned healthcare facility, even if you have health insurance.

Say you visit a private hospital for treatment. You have gold level health insurance (the most comprehensive you can get).

Medicare will pay 75% of the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) fee (yes that's right, despite being treated in the private system, Medicare still pays for the majority of your costs). Your private health insurance pays the remaining 25%.

However, in the private facilities, medical professionals are free to charge above the MBS fee. This is where out-of-pocket expenses can occur. Health insurance also doesn't always cover all of the services and treatments you'll access in hospital, such as pain medication dispensed on discharge or certain specialist appointments, such as seeing a paediatrician.

Good to know:

  • Fees listed are a guide only. Some OBs, hospitals and practices may have their own offers and pricing structures – some much lower, such as Hatch Maternity, which charges a flat $990 out-of-pocket fee for all OB care, and some much higher.
  • Some radiography clinics may bulk bill outpatients who hold a government-issued Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card. However, some services and interventional procedures will attract an out-of-pocket (or gap) fee.
  • Medicare rebates are only available for Australian residents and some visa holders entitled to Australia's reciprocal health care agreement.
  • Once you hit the Medicare Safety Net Threshold, the amount you get back for eligible treatments increases. Instead of getting back $40 for an OB appointment, you'll receive $80.
  • You can get health insurance for pregnancy from $216 a month. You'll need to hold cover for 12 months before you are covered. Extras insurance can also cover some out-of-hospital services such as antenatal and postnatal care.

GP appointments to confirm pregnancy and follow-ups

    • Public: Free if you go to a bulk billing GP.

      To find a health practitioner who bulk bills, you can use the government's find a health service tool.

    • Private GP: Medicare will cover some of the costs. But privately run GPs set their own fees so you may have out-of-pocket expenses. For example, many will follow the Australian Medical Association's suggested fees for the cost of a GP consultation. These are higher than those on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
  • Private GP with health insurance: Private health insurance does not offer cover for out-of-hospital medical services. This includes GP visits.

Worried about out-of-pocket expenses?

Speak directly to your doctor or medical professional. You can also use the government's Medical Costs Finder. It's an invaluable resource that lets you see how much treatment in a private facility might cost in your postcode.

Prenatal care – obstetrician or midwife appointments

    • Public: Medicare can fully cover the cost of midwife appointments in a public hospital though you might not be able to see the same midwife throughout your pregnancy.

      It is less likely to cover obstetrician costs. The government-run Healthdirect website says you might only be able to see an obstetrician if there's a medical need.

    • Private: You can access an obstetrician or a midwife in the private system. Medicare will cover some of the costs, though you will still likely have out-of-pocket expenses of at least $1,200 for appointments.

      Obstetricians often charge a pregnancy management fee. The average person pays $2,570 according to Medical Costs Finder but this fee alone can be more than $4,000.

  • Private with health insurance: Private hospital insurance doesn't cover prenatal or antenatal care.

    Some extras (out-of-hospital) policies provide some cover for antenatal care. For example, Medibank's Growing Family Extras policy covers consultations and birthing courses with a midwife.

    It can also cover birthing classes, compression wear and osteo or physio treatment.

Sarah Megginson

I've given birth 4 times, all through the private system. I wanted the same obstetrician from beginning to end, and to stay 4 nights in hospital in a private room. I didn't want to go home 24 hours after giving birth. I paid a really steep price for the peace of mind, though – thousands out of pocket for each pregnancy. It felt reassuring when I had complications like gestational diabetes (twice!), but if you live near a good public hospital, I'd weigh it up really carefully.
— Sarah Megginson, head of editorial, Australia

When "public" can get complicated

When you're treated in a public hospital, it's totally free. In a better world, it should be as straightforward as that. However, it often gets complicated when you're treated as a public patient in a private facility – for example, if you get an outpatient scan. Sometimes, this may be because there aren't enough public facilities near you. The rule of thumb is this – if the service is deemed medically necessary, it should be fully covered. Speak to your doctor directly if you're unsure about the costs of a service.

NIPT

    • Public: Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a method of determining the risk that the foetus will be born with certain genetic abnormalities. It is not currently covered by Medicare because it's considered optional.

      However, from November 2023, free genetic testing should become more widely available.

      The Albanese government introduced a Medicare rebate of between $300 and $340 for the test, depending on whether you're treated in or out of hospital. The rebates will be available to everyone, even with no symptoms or family history.

    • Private: NIPT typically costs around $450 depending on where you go. Private facilities are free to set the rates themselves.
  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance doesn't cover NIPT.

Parking costs

Keep in mind you'll also have to pay for parking at both public and private hospitals. Costs can range from $5–$10 an hour depending on where you go. Public hospitals tend to be slightly cheaper.

Ultrasounds

    • Public: Routine ultrasounds are fully covered by Medicare. If it's not considered routine or medically necessary, then Medicare won't cover you.
    • Private: Medicare will usually cover $50–$95 of the costs but you will still have out-of-pocket expenses. This can vary depending on the provider. Private practices are free to set their own prices. To give you an idea, you can expect to pay anywhere from $250–$400 per scan.
  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance doesn't typically cover ultrasounds.

Don't forget the excess!

If you've got private health insurance, you'll have to pay an excess when you claim for a treatment. This is typically between $250 and $750. The costs outlined in the table above don't include the excess.

Clare Lee

I gave birth through the public system in Perth and I opted to have a water birth. I was assigned to one midwife who was my continual point of contact throughout my whole pregnancy. My labour ended up being complicated towards the end and ended up in theatre. The care I received through the public hospital was incredible and I was also given my own room after my baby arrived. The whole pregnancy ended up only costing me $30 for pain relief tablets after the birth and I was also given free postnatal care.
— Clare Lee, publisher

Blood tests

    • Public: The cost of routine blood tests and some immunisations, including vaccines against whooping cough and influenza, is typically covered by Medicare.
    • Private: Routine blood tests are covered by Medicare. If you get a blood test as an outpatient – for example at a private GP – then you may have some out-of-pocket expenses of around $20–$80, depending on how much they charge.
  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance won't cover blood tests as an outpatient, such as through your GP.

Glucose tolerance test for diabetes

    • Public: This should be free through Medicare. The test is usually done at a pathology collection centre.
    • Private: There may be small out-of-pocket expenses. However, we couldn't find any facilities charging for this test.
  • Private with health insurance: Private hospital insurance doesn't typically cover out-of-patient services like this.

Delivery

    • Public: Once again, you have no costs for this procedure, as long as you're treated as a public patient in a public hospital.
    • Private: Without insurance, delivery fees can cost $8,700 or more, according to Medical Costs Finder.
  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance can cover a large portion of the fees associated with delivering your baby.

    Private hospitals are free to set their own fees so out-of-pocket costs can range massively. They can range from approximately $380 – which is the typical out-of-pocket amount paid according to Medical Costs Finder – to over $6,000.

    Costs can also vary depending on where you live. For example, it's approximately $1,100 more expensive in Melbourne than in Sydney.

Sarah Megginson

The biggest drawcard for me was the continuity of care of seeing the same obstetrician the whole way through. For some reason, I felt like 'paying' for healthcare gave me more of a voice and the ability to advocate for myself more than if I went through the public system. I'm not sure how true that actually is, but I paid a very big price for that 'peace of mind' – including the price of premiums and out-of-pocket costs it was very expensive, close to $10,000 each.
— Sarah Megginson, head of editorial, Australia
A Finder survey of 1,000 people found the top reason parents would go private for their next birth is for better quality treatment or care, closely followed by the ability to choose their own obstetrician.

Anaesthetist for epidural

    • Public: This will be free if you're treated as a public patient in a public hospital.
    • Private: Without insurance, an epidural is likely to cost around $1,000, though prices can differ depending on the fees of the private hospital.

      Medicare will cover approximately $450 of the costs. As a general guide, you're looking at around $550 in out-of-pocket expenses.

  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance should be able to cover some of the fees. Speak to your doctor beforehand as you may still have some out-of-pocket costs.

C-section

    • Public: C-sections are covered by Medicare if it's deemed medically necessary by your doctor.

      Medically necessary is a pretty restrictive sounding term but it actually has quite a broad definition. For example, a doctor could consider a C-section necessary due to mental health reasons.

      If your preference is to have a C-section, doctors should prioritise your choice and wellbeing. We spoke to several women who had a C-section in the public system for various reasons and it cost them nothing.

  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance should be able to cover some of the fees. You're likely to have out-of-pocket expenses ranging from $450–$7,600, depending on how much the hospital charges.
Almost 2 in 5 (38%) people surveyed said the quality of treatment and care in public is just as good as it is in private.

Paediatrician fees in hospital

    • Public: This is covered for free in a public hospital.
    • Private: You can expect to be around $300–$400 out of pocket.
  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance may be able to cover some of the fees if they're done in hospital. Otherwise it's unlikely to be able to cover you.

Stay in hospital

    • Public: You won't pay anything to stay in a public hospital. However, you will usually be in a shared room and can only stay for 1 night unless you're medically required to stay for longer.
    • Private: Without insurance, a private room can cost you around $1,000 a night. This can differ depending on the hospital's fees.
  • Private with health insurance: Private health insurance can usually fully cover you for a private room for up to 4 nights. It doesn't usually cover your partner's meals though if they're staying with you.
Alexandra Holderness

We had our first baby in a public hospital. I found the standard of care really high. We saw different midwives each visit but that didn't bother us. We also found the prenatal classes really useful. The only downside was when we had our baby. He came close to midnight and I couldn't stay with my wife as it was a shared ward. Those few days in hospital were tough to spend apart and it's the only time I felt jealous of the private rooms!
— Alexandra Holderness, head of publishing, Australia

Postnatal services

    • Public: Many postnatal services are out of hospital so Medicare might not cover you. However, you can get a postnatal check-up appointment with a GP. This is usually 4–8 weeks after you've given birth. You may also be able to get some postnatal check-ups covered in hospital.
    • Private: You can also see a pregnancy and childbirth specialist or a GP privately. The appointment often includes a mental health assessment. It typically costs around $50 per appointment.
  • Private with health insurance: Some top-level extras insurance policies can cover some postnatal services including lactation consultants' services, physio, acupuncture and psychology. It usually covers around $400 worth of services so you might still have some out-of-pocket expenses.
Michelle Vodden

The biggest drawcard for me was the continuity of care of seeing the same obstetrician the whole way through. For some reason, I felt like 'paying' for healthcare gave me more of a voice and the ability to advocate for myself more than if I went through the public system. I'm not sure how true that actually is, but I paid a very big price for that 'peace of mind' – including the price of premiums and out-of-pocket costs it was very expensive, close to $10,000 each.
— Michelle Vodden, SEO and content marketing manager

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