Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Did you know that there are a variety of options for prenatal care and delivery? There is not only one way to experience an empowering birth. You will learn about the difference between an OBGYN and a midwife, the pros and cons of each option, and what to look out for when selecting a provider. Additionally, there is not only one place to give birth. You will learn about the pros and cons of each location as well as the safety of each location. Being aware of all your options will help you decide which options are the best for you.
Remember that your provider works for you, not the other way around. If you are dissatisfied with their service, you have all the right in the world to let them go and find a more competent provider. Know that you have options for who you want to give birth with and where you want to give birth.
An OBGYN is the most conventional route. They are ideal for planned hospital births, handle high-risk cases, and can perform a cesarean when necessary. If your pregnancy requires more attention due to complications or any other reason, a doctor can provide more care. Doctors will not deliver at alternative locations and can sometimes rush through prenatal appointments, and sometimes even with the birth, due to time constraints and schedules. They are also less trained in natural birth than midwives.
Midwifery is the oldest model of care. Midwives can do just about anything a doctor can do except perform a cesarean. Midwives take more time to answer questions, provide longer prenatal appointments, check on you more frequently, and provide a more relaxed atmosphere. Midwives can also prescribe medications and administer IV antibiotics as necessary, as well as IV fluids, Pitocin, and stitch up tears. They deliver at a variety of locations as well, including homes, birth center, and these days many hospitals have adopted a midwifery model of care as well. Some midwives accept insurances, while others don’t, and they cannot provide care for high-risk cases, but will guide you to transfer care to an OB if such a case were to arise.
Hospitals are the most ideal for high-risk births and cesareans. There is also the benefit of having immediate access to medical care if something goes wrong for mom or baby. Additionally, if you choose to get an epidural, a hospital would be the only place that could provide that option. However, hospitals are not the most comfortable place for a calm and relaxed birth experience. It is bright and loud, there are people constantly coming in and out of your room, and the sound of beeping machines is not comforting. Mobility in hospitals can also be limited depending on the size and set up of the room.
Birth centers are more relaxed, quiet, and comfortable; and encourage freedom of movement without restrictions. They are more ideal for natural births, with no option for an epidural. A variety of non-medical pain relief options are still available. Birth centers also can administer IV fluids, antibiotics as necessary such as in the case of GBS+, and Pitocin to stop hemorrhaging. They have the equipment necessary to resuscitate a baby and handle basic emergency situations, and also have a relationship with a hospital in case of transfers, but the transfer time is one con of a birth center. However, birth centers are not for high risk cases. Lastly, you do not spend the night at a birth center, but drive back home the same day.
A home birth has similar benefits of a birth center. It is comfortable and you can move as you please in an environment you already know well. Home births are also the most ideal for a baby’s microbiome, and you get to relax in your own bed and sleep in your own bed right after the birth. The midwife team is there to help you get adjusted for the first few hours and clean up after the birth. Just like a birth center, home births are not for high-risk cases, and there is the transfer time to take into consideration. However, a good midwife will make sure you get transferred well before a potential situation turns into an emergency.
Regardless of whether you choose a doctor or midwife, and regardless of where you choose to birth, there are certain things to look out for when it comes to selecting a provider. The first and foremost is CONSENT! Your provider should always seek out your permission before ever putting their hands on you and before any procedures. You don’t want someone who mocks you, yells at you, or forces you to make decisions you’re not comfortable with (yes, these things do happen sometimes). Rather, you want someone who is RESPECTFUL towards you, supportive of your decisions, and takes their time to answer any questions you may have. Remember, you’ve hired them and you can fire them.
Some things to find out about a potential provider are their cesarean rate (doctors), which hospital they’d be delivering at and the hospital’s cesarean rate, transfer rate (midwives), inductions policy, how they feel about the birth you’re going for and if they’re open to your birth plan, how they feel about you having a doula, and if they work as part of a group of doctors/midwives, or not.
Now you know the differences between an OBGYN and a midwife, as well as what to look out for when selecting a provider or a birthing location. You do not have to stick with one provider because you feel stuck with them. Having a supportive birth team is so important in making sure you have a positive birth experience. Keep your options open and never settle for less.
Written By: Safiyyah Sorathia