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Midwife versus Doctor: How to Choose


If you are pregnant and trying to decide between midwife versus doctor care, you may wonder what makes each type of practitioner unique. An OB/GYN is a medical doctor that has specialized in medical and surgical training to assist women with all stages of pregnancy, from prenatal care to delivery to postpartum care. A midwife is a trained professional who emphasizes natural care throughout the stages of a woman's pregnancy and uses non-invasive techniques to assist in a healthy childbirth. Both doctors and midwives work to ensure the health and well-being of mother and child throughout pregnancy, though they generally use different techniques to do so.

If you are unsure of which type of practitioner would work best for you, this guide will help you make an informed decision.

Natural Childbirth vs Medical Intervention

Most midwives work to assist expectant mothers with a natural childbirth. They use few technological interventions, instead using non-invasive techniques to help a mother through labor. They are, as a rule, trained not to intervene in childbirth, but to provide assistance. If a birth is particularly difficult, a midwife may make the call to refer the mother to an OB/GYN for further assistance.

OB/GYNs are trained to assist the mother with pregnancy and use different forms of technological innovation to do so. This may include the use of different types of medication to induce labor; medication to lessen the pain of childbirth; and surgical intervention (such as a Caesarean section) if the birth cannot be completed vaginally.

Problem Pregnancies

The techniques and practices that midwives use have been specifically developed to work on generally healthy women. Mothers with preexisting health problems or who are experiencing a difficult pregnancy may be referred to an OB/GYN for specialized care.

Places and Methods for Giving Birth

Most midwives are more open to different types of childbirth practices, such as water births. Midwives can also assist with births in several different locations, such as hospitals, clinics, birthing centers, or with home births.

In general, OB/GYNs practice within a hospital setting. However, many hospitals are embracing non-traditional birthing methods and offer water births and other methods within the hospital setting.

Geographic Area

Depending upon where you live, you may have a host of different options for prenatal care and childbirth, or you may be quite limited in your choice. In the past, midwifery care was more prevalent in rural areas but it has increased in popularity over the years and many birthing centers can be found in large cities.

Cost of Care

In general, midwife care is covered by most insurance companies, though you need to check with your specific provider to make sure this is the case. Since midwife care is also much lower-tech than OB/GYN care, it is generally less expensive. Again, do the math to make sure what works best for your budget.

Depending upon your particular situation and how you wish to handle the birth of your child, you will have to decide which option works best for you. Some women decide to take the best of both worlds and have both an OB/GYN and a midwife care for her throughout her pregnancy and beyond. Indeed, some medical clinics offer nurse-midwife care as a part of their treatment options. Whatever you choose, become educated about the type of care you are receiving, and find a practitioner that makes you feel comfortable and happy.

Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.

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