Maternity services

Information on maternity services for pregnant women and those planning pregnancy, and for health care professionals.

Page last updated: 15 February 2017

The Australian Government recognises the importance of providing national coordination and leadership for maternity services to improve outcomes for mothers, babies, and their families. In Australia, the planning and delivery of maternity and child health services is a state and territory responsibility. The role of the Australian Government involves guiding policy collaboration that supports action at the state and territory level.

This webpage provides information on the policy work that underpins Australia’s maternity services and information on Australian Government maternity services. This includes programs and services for pregnant women, those planning pregnancy, their partners, families and health care professionals.

For information on maternity services within your state or territory please refer to your state or territory health service.

National Maternity Services Framework

On 8 April 2016, Australian Health Ministers agreed to continue to work together to improve maternity services, through the development of an enduring National Maternity Services Framework (the Framework). The development of the Framework will consider the possible inclusion of neonatal and child health services, antenatal health risk factors and screening for family violence.

Ministers also agreed to evaluate the processes that occurred in developing and implementing National Maternity Services Plan (the Plan). This plan was in place from 2010 to 30 June 2016.

A fact sheet on this work can be accessed from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council website.

National Maternity Services Plan

The Plan provided a strategic framework to guide policy and program development over five years from 2010 to 2015, but was subsequently extended for a further year until 30 June 2016 to enable work to continue on uncompleted actions. It identified actions under four priority areas (Access, Service Delivery, Workforce and Infrastructure) to improve women’s access to maternity services and service delivery.

National Maternity Services Plan documentation, including the original National Maternity Services Plan 2010, the annual reports and other policy documents, can be found on the Maternity Services Publications page.

Antenatal Care Guidelines

The development and implementation of the Antenatal Care Guidelines were actions under the National Maternity Services Plan. They are intended for all health professionals who contribute to antenatal care including midwives, obstetricians, general practitioners, practice nurses, maternal and child health nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and allied health professionals. They are implemented at national, state, territory and local levels to provide consistency of antenatal care in Australia and ensure maternity services provide high-quality, evidence-based maternity care.

The Antenatal Care Guidelines consist of two Modules. Module 1 covers care in the first trimester of pregnancy and contains chapters on ‘Providing woman-centred care’, ‘Antenatal care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’ and ‘Population groups with specific care needs’ such as women in rural and remote areas. Clinical topics covered relate to antenatal visits, clinical assessments, screening of maternal and fetal health, and lifestyle considerations.

Module 2 addresses care in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and provides guidance on core practices, lifestyle considerations, clinical assessments, common conditions and maternal health tests for healthy pregnant women.

On 24 February 2015 an addendum was issued making two minor changes to the text of Module 2. The PDF and Word versions of Module 2 provided on this website include the changes.

Antenatal Care Guidelines Module 1 (PDF)
Antenatal Care Guidelines Module 1 (Word)

Antenatal Care Guidelines Module 2 (PDF)
Antenatal Care Guidelines Module 2 (Word)

Antenatal Care Guidelines Addendum 1 (PDF)
Antenatal Care Guidelines Addendum 1 (Word)

Review of the Antenatal Care Guidelines

The Antenatal Care Guidelines are currently being reviewed to ensure they remain current and evidence-based. An Expert Working Group is overseeing the review. The revised guidelines will be released for public consultation in 2017. The final guidelines will be submitted to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for consideration and approval.

National Perinatal Data Collection

Since 2011, the Australian Government has funded the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to develop a nationally consistent and comprehensive maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity data collection in Australia. An overview of Australian national and jurisdictional data collections relevant to maternal and perinatal health can be found at the Maternity Information Matrix.

The AIHW reports key statistics and trends on pregnancy and childbirth of mothers, and the characteristics and outcomes of their babies. The AIHW is also responsible for the national reporting of maternal and perinatal mortality, and it is the designated Australian WHO focal point for maternal mortality. Maternal and perinatal data publications can be accessed from the AIHW website.

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website and helpline

The Australian Government funds Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, a free 24 hour, 7 days a week national helpline, video and website service providing access to information, support and counselling for women, partners and their families in relation to pregnancy, birth and the first 5 years of a baby’s life. Call 1800 882 4361 or visit their website.

Women and their families who are facing other challenges, such as emotional distress, perinatal issues, and questions about pregnancy options, can also call the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline to be transferred to qualified counsellors. Counsellors are available from 7am to 12pm midnight daily, free of charge, to offer non-judgmental, confidential support.

The Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline is available to all Australians, including people living in rural and remote areas. People with a disability and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can access the helpline through the National Relay Service and the Translating and Interpreting Service.

Callers experiencing perinatal depression or grief following miscarriage or stillbirth or the loss of a baby may be referred to targeted telephone-based peer support services, including SIDS and Kids, Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) and Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support (SANDS) Australia.

Medicare information for midwives

Link to Medicare information page for midwives and nurse practitioners

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