Whether or not you’re planning to have a baby in the near future, it’s important that you take care of your health and work with a reputable healthcare provider. But in this day and age, there is a growing demand for providers of women’s healthcare that extend beyond gynecologists alone. In fact, there has been a growing demand for practitioners within the field of midwifery. While some Americans associate midwives with a radical departure from traditional gynecological and prenatal care, in fact, midwives and gynecologists provide much of the same care, and you don’t have to be pregnant to work with a midwife. For that matter, midwifery is much more accepted as the norm in other countries. In Europe especially, it’s quite common for women to see midwives far more often than they would see gynecologists. Many don’t even understand that a lot of practices today offer both midwifery services and gynecological services. With that being said, let’s look into the differences between midwives and OBGYNs.
To be clear, this does not mean that midwives are under-educated. Rather, they simply receive a different kind of education compared to gynecologists. Obviously, gynecologists go through four years of medical school, followed by four years of residency and become fully certified medical doctors, with a specialization in gynecology. They then may further specialize; while some may work at a private practice, others may work at major hospitals. Some may work with regular patients and laboring mothers, while others may specialize in more high-risk pregnancies and other high-risk issues surrounding reproductive health.
Midwives can follow different paths depending on where they live, but in the United States generally midwives are actually Certified Nurse Midwives. In this case, you would first become a nurse and then go to graduate school to complete a graduate program in midwifery. This is finished through a national certification program. Though you can become a certified midwife versus a certified nurse midwife, this is becoming less popular as nurse midwives are often able to do more for their patients and are therefore more appealing on a hiring level. The American Midwifery Certification Board reports that as of February 2019, there were 12,219 certified nurse midwives and 102 certified midwives.
2. Patient Risk Levels
Generally speaking, it’s advised that women with low-risk pregnancies can have their babies delivered by either OBGYNs or midwives. Midwives are fully qualified to deliver babies following a normal pregnancy with few risks, and mothers will receive the same degree of high quality care. However, most midwives themselves decline to take on patients whose pregnancies are high-risk; OBGYNs are simply more qualified to take on those issues. Midwives will usually refer patients who become high-risk during their pregnancies to OBGYNs as well.
3. Hands-On Care
Doctors obviously care a great deal about their patients and will be there for them throughout their pregnancies. However, your doctor will have many different patients to work with, and while your pre-labor appointments will be scheduled, your labor probably won’t be (though in some cases it may very well be). Your doctor may be there for the delivery, but unless there are complications probably won’t be there for much of the time during labor, when you’ll be tended to by nurses. Your doctor will simply have other patients to see, and may not even be on rotation when you go into labor, at which point another doctor on rotation will help you. Your midwife will like to be there for much of your labor, and as midwives tend to take on fewer patients, you’ll be less likely to “conflict” with another laboring mother.
4. Different Settings (Potentially)
If you’re giving birth under a doctor’s care, you will almost definitely be giving birth in a hospital. Midwives can work within hospitals as well, where a doctor can easily be called upon as a backup. They can also work at birthing centers, which may or may not be attached to hospitals and will almost definitely be at most a short drive from hospitals, or even at your home.
If you’re having a healthy pregnancy, there is no wrong choice. It very much depends on what you want. Just prioritize your health and that of your baby!