Pregnancy is incredibly exciting, but it can also be overwhelming when it comes to knowing your medical options. The amount of information available when it comes to prenatal care can be all consuming. One of the best ways to combat feeling lost or anxious is to find a medical provider you feel comfortable working alongside.
Preconception, pregnancy and postpartum can be emotional periods. Many women are excited, fearful and confused as they enter a new phase of their life. It can also be a time of vulnerability. The female body is changing, new symptoms are occurring, hormones are heightened, and an underlying fear of the unknown may exist. Knowing your medical options and finding a care team you trust and feel comfortable confiding in can help reduce anxiety and enhance the prenatal and birthing experience.
It’s important to understand that, depending on your area of residence, medical insurance, and care options, you may have access to different practitioners. The following are 2 different care providers that may be worth exploring for your pre- and postpartum journey: an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) or a midwife.
Many women are most familiar with the use of an OB-GYN during pregnancy. OB-GYNs are medical doctors who have undergone additional years of medical training in order to specialize in female reproduction. They are most widely used for pregnancy and birth and are capable of handling high-risk births, c-sections, and medical complications. The length of time required to become an OB-GYN is substantially longer than other specialties, such as midwifery. OB-GYNs are the only professionals able to perform pregnancy-related surgeries. OB-GYNs provide routine check-ups on their pregnant patients, can order tests and ultrasounds as needed and will attend the birth, depending on their call schedule and the structure of their medical practice.
Some patients may feel OB-GYNs can be too clinical, take more of a medical focus on the pregnancy and delivery process, or may push them away from natural childbirth practices. Clients may also not want to be limited to a hospital delivery as they will if utilizing an OB-GYN. However, many clients feel they are more confident in the hands of a doctor with extensive training, especially if they’ve built a good rapport with their doctor.
A midwife is also a specialist in women’s healthcare, specifically the pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum periods. Typically, midwives have completed a graduate degree in midwifery and have passed a licensing exam. Barring any complications, a midwife is able to address all needs of the pregnant woman, order tests, complete routine visits, manage the birthing process, and can refer to an OB-GYN as needed.
Depending on the midwife or OB-GYN options available, some clients feel that midwives may develop more personal relationships with their patients, focus more on a natural birthing process, and have a warmer bedside manner. Some patients may feel that a midwife isn’t clinical enough, is opposed to Western medicine, or maybe concerned a midwife won’t be able to assist should an unforeseen complication arise. Midwives may also not be covered by medical insurance, so a client will want to consider insurance coverage or out of pocket expenses.
Doulas are another specialty that deserves consideration. While doulas will not be the medical provider during your pregnancy or birthing process, and will not replace an OB-GYN or midwife, they can be a helpful addition to your care team. Doulas serve as a source of physical and emotional support system to the entire family before, during, and after the birthing process, and may be a nice compliment to the OB-GYN or midwife that you choose. Some studies show that the need for pain relief is lessened and the health of mom and baby are improved with the use of a doula.
How to choose? A good starting place may be to consider the logistics. Where do you want to give birth? Do you have medical insurance and what do their benefits cover? If you’d like the option of a home birth or utilizing a birthing center, then exploring midwife options may be your best bet. However, if you prefer a hospital delivery, you may be able to explore utilizing either an OB-GYN or midwife. You can also contact your medical insurance to explore coverage for different provider options. Still not sure which route to go? Set up appointments with practitioners in your area and choose a provider based on personality, belief system, credentials and who you feel is the best fit for you. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong decision. The main goal of both doctors and midwives is the same: to ensure that baby is delivered safely, and both mom and baby are healthy.
Here at Mama Method Wellness we believe our mamas should feel informed and empowered when it comes to knowing their medical options. Do your research and ask questions. You are your own best advocate.