Deciding who should care for you (and your baby) during pregnancy, labor and childbirth? Use this guide to help decide the right choice for you.
The test confirmed it: you’re pregnant! But before you start picking out baby names and adding items to your registry, you have another important decision to make: Who will keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy and childbirth?
Hint: It’s a personal choice
There are a few different types of healthcare providers that can care for you throughout pregnancy, but OBGYNs (obstetrician-gynecologists) and certified nurse midwives are most common. And while both providers have the training and expertise to support your pregnancy and childbirth, which one you choose depends largely on your personal situation and childbirth wishes.
So, whether you’re pregnant with your first baby or welcoming another, here’s some information to help you make the best choice for you.
First, let’s look at what OBGYNs and midwives are and the key differences between them:
What is an OBGYN?
An OBGYN, or obstetrician-gynecologist, is a doctor who specializes in pregnancy care (obstetrics) and female reproductive health (gynecology). OBGYNs attend medical school and then spend four years in a residency program, where they get extensive training in pregnancy and women’s healthcare, including medical and surgical training.
“Because of their medical training, OBGYNs are qualified to manage low and high-risk pregnancies (or work alongside a maternal-fetal specialist) and can perform surgeries, like a cesarean section (C-section), should you need it,” explains Dr. Manuel Arreguin, northeast director of women’s health and OBGYN at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
What is a midwife?
A midwife is a licensed healthcare professional with specialized training and expertise in pregnancy care and childbirth. Most midwives are registered nurses who have earned their master’s degrees and have extensive training in midwifery. These providers are called certified nurse midwives.
Like OBGYNs, midwives can provide routine gynecology and prenatal care, order tests and even prescribe medication to manage pain during labor. However, midwives aim to support the body’s natural process during childbirth, so they’re a great option for women who have low-risk pregnancies (with no complications) and who want a natural birth.
“Known for their ‘low-tech, high-touch’ approach, midwives provide extra care and support during low-risk pregnancies and births with as few interventions as possible,” explains Karen Carbaugh, certified registered nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. “Despite their more holistic approach, they work very closely with OBGYNs to make sure a plan is in place should you need extra medical care.”
Choosing your pregnancy care provider
Both OBGYNs and midwives are highly trained, licensed healthcare professionals who are committed to your (and your baby’s) safety and comfort throughout pregnancy, labor and childbirth. And at the end of the day, they both want a healthy mama and baby.
So, when it comes to choosing your pregnancy care provider, it boils down to your medical needs and personal wishes. If you’re still unsure, ask yourself the following questions:
Is your pregnancy considered high-risk?
If you have a condition that raises your risk for complications, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or you’re over the age of 35 (or younger than 18) or pregnant with twins, your pregnancy may be considered high-risk.
“If this is the case, it’s recommended that you see an OBGYN or maternal-fetal medicine (or high-risk pregnancy) specialist for your pregnancy and childbirth care,” says Dr. Arreguin.
Do you want to use pain medication during labor?
If you want medication to help manage pain during labor, an OBGYN or midwife can support this wish. However, midwives typically encourage medication-free methods of pain management first, like hydrotherapy, massage or using a birthing ball.
“Midwives are trained to offer additional support during labor, including medication-free options for pain management,” says Ms. Carbaugh. “So, if you’re hoping to give birth without pain medication, a midwife might be right for you.”
Is a vaginal birth important to you?
Midwives are strong supporters of vaginal birth; however, that doesn’t mean your OBGYN won’t be. If a vaginal birth or vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) is important to you, be sure to discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
No matter who you choose to care for you during your pregnancy, it’s important to ask questions and communicate your wishes with your provider. This allows you and your provider to work together to achieve the best experience possible.
Pregnancy care at Geisinger
When you choose Geisinger for your pregnancy and newborn care, you’re supported by a team of highly trained OBGYNs, certified nurse midwives, maternal-fetal medicine doctors, dietitians, breastfeeding specialists, nurses and other supportive staff.
If you’re pregnant and looking for a healthcare provider, fill out the form on this page and a member of our team will be in touch to help you find pregnancy care near you.
Learn about Manuel Arreguin, MD
Learn about Karen Carbaugh, CRNP, CNM
Learn more about pregnancy and newborn care at Geisinger