Should You Choose a Midwife or an Obstetrician?


Choosing a health care provider to deliver your baby is an important decision. 

In the U.S., most pregnant women deliver with an obstetrician but midwives, more ubiquitous in Europe, have risen sharply in popularity here. 

In 1989, the first year for which data is available, midwives were the lead care providers at just 3 percent of births in the U.S. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, that number was close to 9 percent, according to an article in The Atlantic. 

So should you choose a doctor or a midwife? Some new moms may not know the difference. 

“Certified Nurse Midwives are trained in nursing and midwifery to support women and their families during prenatal care, birth, postpartum care,” said Leslie Cornwell, a Certified Nurse Midwife, and manager of the North Shore Birth Center. “Our emphasis is on prevention, education, and family-oriented care.” 

Obstetrics and midwifery are two distinct but overlapping fields of medical knowledge and practice that focus on care during pregnancy and labor.

Midwives are trained to care for low risk, healthy women and babies but have the skills to handle complications that can arise with pregnancy and birth, Cornwell explained.

“Both providers work closely together to support women’s individual needs based on cultural preferences, medical needs, and requests for different birth settings like birth center or hospital,” she said.

With midwives and doctors, you’ll be able to obtain pain medication, despite a myth midwives do not provide this. Likewise, most midwives deliver in a hospital setting and if there is an unforeseen complication requiring surgery, you have access to obstetricians. 

That being said, obstetricians take care of all pregnancies, including those of low-risk, healthy women.

Midwives and doctors work closely together. Both have a shared goal of making sure each patient is offered the highest standard of care for moms and their babies. 

“The most important aspect of choosing someone to deliver your baby is finding a provider who you connect with and who makes you feel comfortable,” said Dr. Mary Boyd, the chief OB/GYN at Beverly Hospital.   “Allow yourself the opportunity to meet both midwives and doctors, and choose the person who feels best,” she said.  “If you’re a young, healthy woman, you’ll most likely get to make the choice.” 

Dr. Boyd also recommends asking your family members or friends for recommendations. Who delivered their babies? Depending on various factors like age, existing health issues, and pregnancy, you’ll get to decide.  Whatever direction you choose to go, know that both doctors and midwives love to care for pregnant women and work incredibly hard to make sure both moms and babies are safe and healthy.

When choosing your provider, speak with both midwives and obstetricians to get all the information you need.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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