(MayoClinic.com) The health care provider you choose for pregnancy can make a big difference in your experience. Although the nature of your pregnancy may dictate which type of health care provider is best for you, personal preferences matter, too. Before making a decision, consider all of your options.
Family physicians provide care for the whole family through all stages of life, including pregnancy and birth. Training and experience qualify family physicians to manage most pregnancies, including minor surgical procedures for vaginal delivery. A few family physicians also perform C-sections, but most don't. Family physicians may work solo, or they may be part of a larger group practice that includes nurses and other medical professionals.
You might choose a family physician if:
Doctors who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology are commonly referred to as OB-GYNs. They're trained to handle all phases of pregnancy, from preconception planning to postpartum recovery. OB-GYNs also specialize in the prevention and treatment of other conditions affecting a woman's health. OB-GYNs often work in group practices that include nurses and other medical professionals.
You might choose an OB-GYN if:
Maternal-fetal medicine specialists, also called perinatologists or high-risk obstetricians, are trained to care for women with the highest risk pregnancies. Maternal-fetal medicine specialists often work in group practices, functioning mainly as consultants rather than primary obstetric care providers.
You might consult a maternal-fetal medicine specialist if:
Midwives provide preconception, maternity and postpartum care for women at low risk of complications during pregnancy. Guided by the principle that pregnancy and birth are natural events, midwives generally offer a low-tech approach to the birthing process. Midwives can't perform C-sections and may not be licensed to administer drugs or anesthesia, if the need arises.
There are many types of midwives. In the United States, the most common include:
Although midwives may practice solo, many are part of a group practice — such as a team of obstetric care providers.
You might choose a midwife if:
If you're considering a midwife, make sure he or she is associated with a doctor or has a backup arrangement with a hospital in case complications arise. If you're not giving birth in a hospital, create an emergency plan with your midwife. Include details such as the name and number of your midwife's backup doctor, the hospital you'll be taken to, and how you'll get there.Who's right for you?
In the end, it's most important to find a health care provider you can trust to safely guide you and your baby through pregnancy, labor and delivery. Ask yourself these questions:
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