If you've recently found out you and your partner are expecting your first child, you may be overwhelmed at the number of decisions you'll soon need to make. Would you like a medicated or unmedicated birth? Would you prefer to give birth at home, in a hospital, or in a standalone birthing center? You may assume you need to consult an obstetrician to help guide you through the next eight or nine months. However, in some cases a midwife or doula may prove more of an asset to your pregnancy and decision-making process. Read on to learn more about the services a midwife can provide to decide whether this is the best birth coaching method for you.
What are the practical differences between an obstetrician, midwife, and doula?
An obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) is a board-certified physician who is trained in general medical practices but with a specialty in pregnancy and childbirth-related issues. Many pregnant women seek the services of an OB/GYN as a "one stop shop" throughout pregnancy, as an OB can do everything from performing routine exams to delivering the baby.
Midwives and doulas are not physicians, but can also play a key role in the birthing process -- in some cases, even eliminating the need for a dedicated OB/GYN to take part. In some states, midwives are permitted to prescribe medication (as long as they've gone through the necessary steps to become state-certified) and can perform routine examinations, including tracking your child's heartbeat and administering genetic screening tests. Sometimes midwives and OBs work together, practicing from the same office, like George L Stankevych MD.
Doulas perform more of a partnership role for the expectant mother than OB/GYNs or midwives, helping answer any questions about pregnancy and childbirth and providing physical support throughout the birth. During childbirth, a doula may be found rubbing the expectant mother's shoulders, helping her time contractions, or even manipulating her lower abdomen to try to turn the baby into a more suitable position.
Should you seek out an OB/GYN or a midwife?
If you know you'd like the physical support a doula can provide, you may have already contacted a few local agencies as a jumping-off point. However, it can sometimes be difficult to decide whether an OB/GYN or a midwife is the better choice. Ultimately this decision will come down to your medical needs (and any medical needs your child may have), along with your personal comfort level.
For those who are beginning their pregnancies with special health concerns -- like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or heart disease -- an obstetrician should be able to provide the expertise and monitoring necessary for you to have a safe and healthy pregnancy. However, those who are already in good health should be able to seek all recommended prenatal treatment (up to and including birth) with a midwife. And because midwives generally have a lighter appointment schedule than most hospital-affiliated doctors, they can be the perfect choice for a first-time mom with too many questions and concerns to count.