If you’re trying to conceive or newly pregnant, you may find yourself asking, “Should I use a midwife or OB GYN for my prenatal care and birth?”
It’s a question worth asking: the person you choose to provide for your health care during your pregnancy, labor, and delivery will play a large part in the kind of experience you have.
Pregnancy is a special and important time in your life, and birth is kind of a big deal, so don’t rush to make this decision or assume that it’s a no-brainer. Take your time and choose the healthcare provider that is right for you.
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How do I find a good midwife or OB GYN?
One of the best ways to find a midwife or OB GYN is by word-of-mouth. Ask your friends who they used and how it worked out. Some questions you might ask your friends are:
- Did they feel cared for?
- Were their questions answered?
- Did they have enough time and personal attention?
- Was the midwife or OB GYN there for the birth?
- Did they create a birth plan and was the midwife or OB GYN supportive of their birth plan?
- How much help did they get from the midwife or OB GYN during labor and birth?
Once you have narrowed your choices down, make sure the health care professional is covered by your insurance. Of course, you will want to choose someone who is qualified and who you feel comfortable with, but beyond that, there are many things to consider.
Should I use a midwife or OB GYN?
What is an OB GYN?
OB GYN is short for obstetrician gynecologist. And OB GYN is a medical doctor who specializes in women’s health issues and reproduction. An OB GYN will deliver your baby in a hospital. The OB GYN is trained to manage and treat pregnancy complications. There is little training for an OB GYN in natural, uncomplicated birth.
Because of the nature of rotating schedules in medical practices, it’s possible that if your doctor is not available when you are in labor, the on-call doctor at his or her clinic will deliver your baby.
Consider using an OB GYN if you:
- feel strongly that you want a doctor to attend to you during your labor and birth
- want pain relief during labor
- have a high risk pregnancy
- prefer less involvement from your health care provider during pregnancy and birth rather than more
What is a midwife?
A midwife is a health professional trained specifically to provide prenatal, maternity and postpartum care. One of the most common types of midwife is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). The CNM is a registered nurse who has been specially trained in maternity care, labor and delivery. Their training is oriented toward natural birth, and they are adept at identifying complications early and can make referrals to an OB GYN if necessary. Certified Nurse Midwives work in partnership with a supervising OB GYN who is available to assist or take over if complications occur.
Some midwives deliver only in hospitals, while others deliver in birth centers. Some midwives will do home deliveries. Midwives may not administer medications (pain relief), cannot perform cesarean sections, or handle many pregnancy complications.
Consider a midwife if you:
- want a natural birth
- want to give birth somewhere other than a hospital
- have a low risk pregnancy
- have a high level of anxiety about birth
- prefer more involvement from your health care provider during pregnancy and birth rather than less
Questions to ask a midwife or OB GYN
Choosing a midwife or OB GYN is a big decision, so feel free to ask lots of questions. If you sense that the health care professional is reluctant or too busy to answer your questions, he or she is probably not the right professional for you.
At your first consultation with the midwife or OB GYN, consider asking some of the following questions:
- How long have you been in practice?
- How many babies do you deliver a week?
- Why did you decide to become a midwife or OB GYN?
- How do you feel about natural birth (if you are planning to have one)?
- What is your philosophy about pain relief?
- How do you feel about birth plans?
- What is your cesarean rate?
- Who will I see for my office visits (if in a group practice)
- Are you available to answer questions between appointments?
- What would be your course of action if I go beyond my due date?
- What if my labor goes long or there are complications?
- Will you be in town around my due date?
- Who will deliver my baby if you are not available?
Go with your gut
You need to feel comfortable with and confident in your OB GYN or midwife, so trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, find someone else, even if the professional is highly recommended and has answered all your questions satisfactorily.
Remember, you will be seeing a lot of this person, and he or she may be making some critical decisions about you and your baby. Choose someone you can trust.