Getting pregnant and preparing to welcome a new baby into the world is a life-changing experience. Choosing a healthcare provider to help care for you during this is time is a big decision.
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Different types of obstetric healthcare providers can fill these needs. Angela Washer, APRN-CNP, recommends exploring your options and thinking carefully about what’s most important to you as you go about choosing the best provider for you.
Midwives are registered nurses with a master’s degree in nursing, with a strong emphasis on clinical training and midwifery. “They provide comprehensive, family-centered maternity care from the first prenatal visit through labor and delivery, and after the birth of your baby,” Washer says.
They work with obstetricians who are always available to assist if complications happen during pregnancy, labor or delivery.
This type of medical doctor is trained to provide medical and surgical care to women. Ob/Gyns spend four years after medical school in a residency program studying reproduction, pregnancy and female medical and surgical problems. They are certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Also called a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, a perinatologist is an obstetrician who specializes in the care of women who might face special problems during their pregnancy. These include women who:
Perinatologists can help manage high-risk pregnancies and provide preconception counseling and sophisticated prenatal diagnosis and treatment.
A doula is a professionally trained labor and birth assistant who can provide education and physical and emotional support during labor and birth. Some doulas provide both pre- and post-birth services. When you choose and meet with your doula, you can discuss how she can best help you during labor, birth or postpartum. It’s important to note that most insurance providers don’t cover the costs of a doula.
Try to schedule an introductory visit to meet with the provider you think you’d like to work with and determine if you feel comfortable with him or her. Consider the following questions to help you form an opinion about the provider and determine whether they’re a good fit for you:
You also have many options when it comes to where to have your baby.
If you’ve already selected a healthcare provider, ask where they deliver babies. If it’s a hospital, you might ask about the following:
Although most births take place in hospitals, more women are choosing to have their babies in other locations such as at birthing centers. These are usually located near a hospital and are run by certified nurse-midwives or doctors. If you’re thinking of giving birth at a birthing center, be sure to research the staff’s credentials. Though it’s rare, problems during labor and delivery can arise, so you’ll want to be sure you can get the best care possible.
Home birth is common in other parts of the world, but in the U.S., very few babies are born at home. Most doctors and midwives won’t agree to do a home delivery. “The reason is simple: life-threatening complications can happen fast during labor and delivery, and most homes are too far away from a hospital where you can get emergency care,” Washer says.
If you have any questions about your birthing options, don’t hesitate to reach out to some of the healthcare providers you’re considering for your pregnancy care.