You’re pregnant, now what? The first major decision you have to make is who will care for you during pregnancy – Midwife vs. OB GYN.
Deciding between midwife vs. doctor can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
Ultimately they both have the same goal in mind – healthy mother and baby. What differs is their approach towards prenatal care.
And we’ve been through both! Jo used an OB GYN throughout both pregnancies and Rachel saw a midwife for her second.
Let’s talk through some of the pros of choosing between a midwife vs. OB GYN to make the decision process super simple.
This post has a lot of helpful information, it’s definitely a good one to pin now so you can come back and reference it later.
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Midwife Vs. OB GYN Education
One of the most notable differences between a midwife vs. OB GYN is their education.
While one is not necessarily better than the other, they are important to address because it affects both maternal care and their treatment philosophies.
Midwives Provide Legit Women’s Health Care
When I mention midwives, many people seem to have misconceptions that they aren’t actually qualified or formally trained.
That is far from the truth.
Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) are registered nurses with advanced degrees and training in midwifery. They must also pass a certification exam.
They are healthcare professionals.
That said they are well trained to handle healthy, low risk pregnancies. They are also specifically trained in identifying when women require a doctor’s care.
OB-GYNs Have Medical School Training
OB-GYNs have gone through (at minimum) four years of medical school, four years of medical residency (which involves surgical training) and three years of concentrated obstetrics and gynecology experience.
Because of this training, they have a balance of knowledge between maternal care and overall health. They are also trained for surgery and are equipped to perform advanced procedure such as cesarean sections, forceps and/or vacuum delivery, and even circumcisions (for after baby is born).
OB-GYNS, for the most part, solely deliver in a hospital setting. Because of this they have instant access to emergency procedures “when things go wrong”.
Hospital settings also mean they have quicker access to anesthesiologists when epidurals are requested.
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Approach to Care Midwife Vs. OB GYN
There is no debate in the fact that physicians and midwives have different treatment philosophies – and that’s a fantastic thing, because no one method works for every woman.
Midwives Provide Personalized Care
Midwives tend to offer more personal care.
Obviously this can vary widely by individuals and practices, but in general midwives take a more relationship based approach to patient care. Many have longer appointment times and truly get to know their patients.
I’ve even heard some midwives give out their cell number or even make house calls.
Midwives focus on women-centered care and will answer all of your questions and help you make a birth plan. They want you to be empowered in your decisions.
If you want a specific birth experience outside of the hospital norm like delivering at home or a birthing center, a midwife might be your only option.
OB-GYNs Have A Medical Approach
Physicians tend to have a more routine and objective approach to their ultimate goal – a healthy pregnancy and birth. They are more clinical and guided by textbooks, numbers, and evidence-based medicine.
For this reason, they are also more likely to intervene and make the statistically best recommendation for you and your child. This may include additional ultrasounds to measure fetus size throughout pregnancy, discussing the different options for genetic testing, or other interventions.
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Midwife Vs. OB GYN Labor and Delivery
Midwives Provide Support for Labor and Birth
Midwives want to provide a safe and healthy birth experience and they stay with you throughout your labor and delivery.
This is probably most important for moms attempting a natural birth. Some moms say they felt pressured in hospitals to get an epidural or other interventions. So if you want to go natural, a midwife may be a great fit. Statistically having a midwife reduces birth interventions.
That said, you can still get the drugs. If you want an epidural, your midwife will support your decision.
This hands-on approach to labor was the biggest difference I noticed between my doctor and my midwife. With my first delivery, the doctor only showed up when there was trouble and then at the very end. And I do mean very end… he almost missed the birth.
My midwife was in the delivery room the whole time. She helped me find stay as comfortable as possible and get baby into position. It was so reassuring to have her support.
So many aspects of my two birth experiences were totally different, but my second birth was much easier and I believe some part of that was due to my midwife.
Physicians Are Present for the Crucial Parts
If you choose to deliver with an OB-GYN there are two distinct level of care providers – nurse and doctor.
A nurse will get you set up with monitors, check how dilated you are, start any IVs, and help you cope with contractions.
On the other hand, the doctor will pop in a few times for maybe a minute each before the baby is born. When the baby is starting to crown, the nurse will call the OB-GYN to deliver the baby and attend to the mother.
Obviously, the doctor is always nearby if questions or concerns arise. That’s just how it tends to go in a “normal” birth situation.
As mentioned above, because OB-GYNs have surgical training they are licensed to perform all “advanced” delivery procedures. This includes methods such as cesarean sections, vacuums, and forceps delivery.
OB-GYNs do have a reputation for greater use of these interventions over midwives, and that’s because they are trained in their use and their benefits. Remember, ultimate goal is healthy mom and baby – and they know the statistically best method to reach the finish line.
On a personal note, I loved the structure of having a physician while I was giving birth.
While at the hospital, I had access to both a nurse and physician. This satisfied my different “needs” during the birthing process.
The nurses held my hand and talked me through contractions. My doctor checked in occasionally to let me know how I was progressing.
My doctor gave facts and recommendations. After they stepped out of the room, I could have a candid conversation about everything with my nurse.
The nurses had more of a maternal, touchy-feely vibe. Contrastingly, the doctors had a friendly-but-professional vibe. I feel I benefited from both of these during labor.
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Midwives Provide Continuous Care Throughout Pregnancy and Delivery
Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) are capable of providing care to women from pregnancy to delivery to annual exams to menopause.
Women can see a midwife for their pap smears and birth control prescriptions, so you can continue to see your midwife for your regular women’s health care.
Ease of OB-GY Continued Care
Most women already see an OB-GYN for their annual exams, likely someone they know and trust.
Transitioning from routine to prenatal care takes little to no effort. No research is needed to find another doctor or practice.
Additionally, OB-GYNs handle all pregnancy cases: low-risk, multiple births, mother’s with high blood pressure, complications with previous pregnancies, cesarean sections, etc.
Because of this, you don’t have to worry about transferring prenatal care later in the pregnancy (or even during delivery) if a problem arises.
I like that you explain how OB-GYNs deliver in a hospital, giving them access to emergency procedures if there are any problems. Since this is the case, it would probably be a good idea to consider the type of pregnancy you have so you can figure out which one is best, such as if there’s high risk for any problems. When choosing one, it might help to figure out what type you’re most comfortable and research local midwives and doctors so you can then call or meet with them in order to discuss their services and your situation to figure out which one would be best.
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My aunt has been trying to get pregnant with her husband and they are thinking about going to see a gynecologist. If they manage to have a baby she is thinking about keeping the same doctor help her give birth. I’ll be sure to tell her that most OB-GYNs have seven years of school three of which are concentrated in gynecology.
Glad you liked the article 🙂 Good luck to your aunt!
It was helpful when you said that OB-GYNs have the training to balance maternal care and overall health. I recently found out I’m pregnant and need to find a good medical professional to work with. Thanks for helping me see the benefits that working with an obstetrician would have!
I loved worked with an OB-GYN, it was the right decision for our family!
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