Doctor or Midwife

This is an important decision for all expectant mothers. A midwife may sound very appealing, but you may be concerned about her ability to deal with medical emergencies. The thought of having a physician on stand-by may offer more comfort when worrying about an emergency situation, but perhaps you desire a more personal approach to childbearing. How do you decide?

The most fundamental difference between doctors and midwives is their approach to childbirth. Physicians are trained to treat complications and are present only at the birth of the child, not during labor. Midwives, on the other hand, are not as qualified to treat medical complications, but they specialize in teaching women about their pregnancies and providing a personalized approach. Midwives stay with their clients throughout labor and birth.

When making your decision remember the first rule of thumb: if a high-risk pregnancy has been identified, a physician should be your care provider. For some high-risk pregnancies specialists are needed, such as a perinatologist, and other members of the health-care team may be called in to consult at various times throughout the pregnancy. A physician may be able to coordinate and monitor a high-risk situation more effectively than a midwife.

Second, check with your insurance company. Most will cover midwifery, others will not. Insurance companies also vary on what services they will and will not cover, so be on the lookout. Is there a separate deductible for pregnancy care that you may not be aware of?

Careful checking applies to choosing a doctor as well. Each doctor is affiliated with a hospital and when choosing a doctor you will want to check out the hospital, too. Hospitals vary in type of birthing experiences offered, cost for services, neonatal care available, etc. The physician and hospital are usually a package deal so do your research carefully.

In choosing a physician two choices are available: an obstetrician (OB) or a family doctor. In most large and more populated areas OBs deliver babies, while in smaller, less populated areas, family doctors do.

There are also different types of midwives to choose from. Certified nurse-midwives (CNM) are registered nurses, who have usually been trained in graduate schools to handle low to moderate-risk clients. They work closely with physicians in case of serious complications. Most CNMs deliver babies in hospitals, but sometimes work in birthing centers or homes. Another type is called a lay, licensed, or traditional midwife depending on the state in which they practice. Their training varies and they deliver babies in birthing centers or homes.

If you prefer a midwife, it’s wise to make sure she has the qualifications and training you’re most comfortable with and has an affiliation with a hospital and physician. Complications arise during labor 10-15 percent of the time and can pose a significant risk to child and mother if emergency help is not readily available.

There are no-cost physician and midwife referral services in most metropolitan areas; call your local medical society. But the best sources of information are often new moms. Ask friends and co-workers for referrals; they may know of a physician or midwife who is perfect for you. Most importantly, choose a practitioner whom you feel comfortable with and will be best able to help you have the kind of birth experience you want.

Comments are closed.