After 32 years supporting more than 5,000 mothers across Victoria, Ballarat obstetrician Russell Dalton has delivered his last baby.
The baby boy was delivered on Monday at Geelong's Epworth Hospital, where he has cared for patients through his new practice, OGB Surf Coast.
"It was a lovely experience; everyone had celebratory coffees afterwards," he said.
"It was quite an emotional time knowing it was the last person I'd be sharing that birth experience with."
He recently delivered his last two Ballarat babies at St John of God Hospital and took the time to enjoy the experience with those patients, knowing they would be his final days delivering babies.
Dr Dalton has delivered babies across generations in some families. There have been large families where he has looked after all of the sisters during their pregnancies and delivered 20 nephews and nieces, getting to know the whole family.
"I'd like to thank all the people who have placed their trust in me over the years," he said.
"It's not really a job - it's just part of you."
Posts on his clinic's social media pages this week attracted thousands of reactions and hundreds of messages from across Ballarat.
Former patients paid tribute to a man who had delivered some or all of their children and who had been on their journeys battling fertility issues and loss, as well as delivering healthy babies.
He was humbled by the comments and messages of support.
"To see all the names and people - their experiences came flooding back like it was yesterday," Dr Dalton said.
"Part of the experience of being an obstetrician is observing and supporting people when things are perfectly normal but also being able to use your expertise when they're not."
The decision to stop delivering babies came after discussion with his wife Marg. His 60th birthday is approaching this year and they have two granddaughters on the way, joining their young grandson.
"I'm looking forward to the weekends off and exploring new opportunities in the practice," he said.
Dr Dalton will now focus on IVF care and his passion of training young regional doctors in obstetrics and gynecology.
Dr Dalton began his career in 1985, working as a medical student in obstetrics and midwifery, which drove his passion to specialise in the field. He graduated from Monash University in 1986, before beginning his specialist training in 1990 at Monash Medical Centre and Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital.
As part of his training, he focused on fertility treatments including IVF and laparoscopic surgery. When he returned to Ballarat in 1995, he began his practice, before establishing Ballarat IVF in 2002. In 2006, he established OGB with Michael Bardsley.
"Probably my very first person that I looked after in Ballarat is someone that I'll always remember, and my very first IVF babies that were born in Ballarat in 2002," he said.
Among the changes he has seen over his career include the IVF success rates that have improved over the years in the actual live birth rates for women having IVF and embryo transfers, and the shift towards single embryo transfers and dramatically lower multiple birth rates.
He said the demand for egg freezing was expanding, particularly for women in their 30s, on the back of high quality outcomes in terms of the survival of eggs and the success of the overall pregnancies.
He is now developing an app that will provide ovulation induction services online for those accessing fertility services.
One of Dr Dalton's passions is training and improving services for regional Victoria.
Ballarat IVF is the region's sole full-time fertility service, with only two others in regional Australia.
"My base approach is for women in regional Victoria to be looked after better than they are in the city.
"We have some fantastic young doctors and specialists and a training program and are talking to people in their third year of training who will work with us in two years' time.
"It's a really strong skill development service for regional Victoria."
Dr Dalton said in training the next generation of young doctors, he instilled in them the importance of listening to their patients.
"The people I want to work with are energetic, ambitious and want to make a difference," he said.
"The key to success in any good activity is to surround yourself with really good people and that's what we've done here."
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