Midwife or OB/GYN: Who’s Right for You?

From our friends at Adventist Health:

Mother holding newborn baby in hospital

If you’re planning to start a family or are pregnant, you may be asking, “Who’s going to be my care provider and deliver my baby?” A good place to start is deciding is whether you’ll be seen by a certified nurse-midwife or an OB/GYN. But what’s the difference? Here’s how these experts can guide you through pregnancy, birth and beyond.

What’s the difference?

Certified nurse-midwives
A certified nurse-midwife has a master’s degree in nursing, with a focus on pregnancy, birth, postpartum care, newborn care, and women’s health and contraception. All of our midwives are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board, as indicated by “CNM” after their name.

Our midwives also all have specific experience in supporting women in unmedicated, physiologic labor. “Labor can be hard, but your midwife is there to provide one-on-one care every step of the way,” says Kori Pienovi, CNM. “We know it’s difficult, but we get to watch women overcome the pain of labor every single day.”

Midwife deliveries, for those who are low-risk, take place in special midwifery suites (like those found in birth centers) within our hospital’s Family Birth Place. These rooms offer a serene environment with comfort tools like a labor tub, a queen-size bed, birth balls, squatting bars, mats for kneeling and birth stools.

If a patient becomes moderate- or high-risk during labor or delivery, or if they desire pain management beyond water immersion or nitrous oxide, they may be moved to a traditional room while remaining under the care of midwives.

“Our aim is to provide compassionate care, holding space for your story and allowing you to be the guide as you navigate your personal birthing journey,” says Catherine Schaefer, CNM.

An OB/GYN is a medical doctor who provides prenatal and postpartum care and delivers babies. After medical school and residency, these physicians are certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

OB/GYNs are experts in complicated cases and can perform both planned and unplanned C-sections. If you’re pregnant with multiples or have a high-risk or complicated pregnancy, you’ll receive prenatal care from and be delivered by an OB/GYN.  Like midwives, they work with you to meet your birth goals.

As an OB/GYN patient, you’ll be in a traditional labor and delivery room with access to epidurals and other medical interventions. Much of your labor will be managed by nurses, with a doctor present for delivery.

“OB/GYNs also perform gynecological surgery and treatments for women experiencing endometriosis, PCOS and heavy periods,” says Dr. Bojan Malmin, OB/GYN. “Whether it’s an uneventful delivery, an unplanned C-section or a gynecological surgery, your OB/GYN is here for you through every age and stage of women’s care.”

Beyond labor and delivery, both OB/GYNs and midwives provide a full range of women’s health care from well-woman visits to family planning, pregnancy, birth and menopause care. Both doctors and midwives share a common goal: to keep you and your little one safe and healthy.

Who to pick

To help you decide, start by asking yourself what type of birth you’d like to have.

Is my pregnancy high-risk?
OB/GYNs work with high-risk and complicated pregnancies. If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you can opt for a midwife if you’re planning on an unmedicated, low-intervention birth.

If you’re not sure if yours is a high-risk pregnancy, ask your current care provider whether your pregnancy is high-risk or low-risk. Keep in mind that status could change throughout your pregnancy.

How do I want to manage my pain?
The pain of childbirth can be managed through water immersion, nitrous oxide, IV pain medication or an epidural. If you’re planning to use an epidural or other medication, you may want to be seen by an OB/GYN. If your goal is an unmedicated/physiologic birth, our midwives have created an environment to support you and your inner strength in our midwifery suites.

Do I need to have a C-section?
If you need to have a C-section, your surgeon will be an OB/GYN physician. If you’ve been working with a midwife, they will assist during the procedure and remain with you during delivery.

Honoring your birthing choice
Whichever birthing style you choose, Family Birth Place offers a safe, comfortable environment to support you as you delivery your little miracle. Meet our team to find the provider who fits you best.

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