Childbirth is a very personal matter. It’s between you and the life you and your partner have created over the last 9-10 months. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need help...
They say it takes a village to raise a baby, and that starts at day 1. From obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs) to midwives and doulas, there are many different qualified professionals who can lend their very capable hands throughout this new chapter.
All are valuable in different ways, so it’s up to the individual whom they would like to choose to take part in this experience. If what you’re desiring is a more traditional birth in a hospital with a highly qualified physician, an OB-GYN is what you’re looking for… or maybe it’s a quieter at-home experience with a midwife and/or doula that sounds more up your alley.
In an effort to make the decision a bit easier, here is what, exactly, each birthing provider does and how they can best fit with your needs...
Chances are you’re probably already familiar with an OB-GYN, a physician who specializes in women’s reproductive health (think annual pap smears and STI testing), and also who is trained to monitor women’s pregnancies and deliver babies. Women usually start seeing an OB-GYN around the age of 13-15 and then about once a year for a well-woman visit once they become sexually active. Throughout your pregnancy you’ll meet with your OB-GYN multiple times at different milestones in the babies gestation (weeks 4-28: 1 visit a month; weeks 28-36: 1 visit every 2 weeks; weeks 36-40: 1 visit a week). They will be the one to actually deliver your baby, so it’s important to select a physician you feel comfortable around.
A midwife has medical training and is trained to manage normal pregnancies, focusing on the baby’s needs specifically. If an emergency situation arises they will recognize it and pass over the reins to a more qualified provider, like an OB-GYN who is trained to handle high-risk pregnancies and surgeries. There are various types of midwives from registered nurses to those who have bachelor’s degrees in health related subjects to those with specialized training specifically in midwifery. Like an OB-GYN, a midwife can do prenatal and gynecological exams and order testing, administer prescriptions, help make birth plans, perform fetal monitoring, offer advice on planning, exercise, diet, and meds, as well as actually deliver the baby. Typically, midwives are more prone to using natural interventions than an OB-GYN who often relies on textbook medical training. Some hospitals allow midwives to come assist, while some ban it, so if the hospital route is the direction you’re leaning, it’s always a good idea to first check the rules of your desired health center.
Aptly, the word “Doula” derives from the Greek word meaning “woman’s servant.” Doulas are professionally trained (but not medically trained) providers who focus solely on the mother and her needs before, during, and after childbirth. They are there to offer emotional, physical, and educational support and to do all that they can to help the mother have an empowering experience. Through techniques like meditation, breathing, and massage they will ensure their patient maintains a sense of calm, regardless of whether it be medicated or natural, at home or in-hospital. There are birth doula’s that provide support during labor, antepartum doulas who help prepare for birth, and postpartum doulas who help nurture the family at home as they transition into a new chapter with their newborn. Assistance with diapers, bathing, breastfeeding support, soothing techniques, and helping to locate local resources such as parenting classes and support groups are all common areas where doulas lend their aid. It is the doula’s mission to lend support to the whole family, not just the baby -- truly, a woman’s servant.