Pregnancy: Choosing a Health Professional
It's important to find a doctor or midwife who can work closely with you and share in decision making. Your partnership with your health professional is key to getting the care that is best for you. And a strong partnership will help you have the pregnancy and birth experiences that you want.
Options for your care
Several types of health professionals are trained to provide medical care or support for prenatal, labor and delivery, and postpartum care. These include:
- Perinatologists (maternal-fetal health medicine specialists).
- Family medicine physicians who provide obstetric care. (You may choose to have this type of doctor continue on as the child's doctor.)
- Certified nurse-midwives.
- Certified professional midwives.
Choosing a doctor or midwife
Choosing a health professional is directly related to where you want to deliver your baby. Certain providers usually deliver in certain birth settings. Most medical doctors (MDs) deliver only at hospitals. If you work with a midwife, you may be able to have an out-of-hospital birth.
Also, your choice affects the options you may have during both your pregnancy and delivery. If you work with a midwife, you may have more options for natural management of pain during labor. But you may not have the option of getting certain medicines for pain relief.
Doctors and midwives also have different training and skills. Doctors have more medical training than midwives and are trained to handle more serious problems. Doctors can do medical tests, such as amniocentesis, or surgery, such as a Cesarean delivery. Midwives usually have a more natural approach to pregnancy and childbirth. They may be less likely to do as many medical tests. And they often teach natural methods for managing pain during labor.
Doctors and midwives share the same goal—for you and your baby to be healthy. But sometimes their approaches to prenatal care and childbirth may be different. When you are choosing your health professional, find out if his or her philosophy and approach matches your preferences and values.
Some clinics and hospitals offer a group-practice approach. You choose a primary caregiver, but you will also see each of the other doctors or midwives at least once during your pregnancy. If your primary caregiver isn't available when you go into labor, you will be familiar with the doctor or midwife who attends your delivery.
Along with a trained medical professional, you may also want to use:
- A lay midwife, who delivers babies at home. Lay midwives are not licensed and are not required to have professional medical training. A lay midwife may not have the medical training for handling a complicated labor or emergencies. If you are planning a home delivery, make sure ahead of time that you have medical backup and a hospital nearby in case of an emergency.
- A doula. Doulas provide physical and emotional support before, during and after delivery. Many women work with a doula in addition to a doctor or midwife.
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofJune 4, 2014
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.