Midwife vs. OB-GYN: Understanding Your Choices for Childbirth Care

Midwife talking to new mother in hospital a day after delivery.

Your journey to childbirth is a unique experience that requires preparation and planning.

Part of this preparation includes choosing your birth team, which can include providers such as an OB-GYN or a Midwife. You may also consider using a doula alongside your provider.

Each plays an important role in supporting you through your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey, but what’s the difference? Understanding the expertise of OB-GYNs and midwives can help you decide who you want on your birth team.

The Role of an OB-GYN

An OB-GYN is a medical doctor with specialized training in obstetrics and gynecology. Training for this path includes four years of medical school and a residency in obstetrics and gynecology.

As physicians, your OB-GYN provides comprehensive medical care for you and your baby, which includes surgical procedures when needed, such as cesarean section.

Outside of the delivery, OB-GYNs offer a wide range of women’s health care services, including:

  • Primary women’s health care
  • Prenatal care
  • Labor and delivery
  • Postpartum care
  • Addressing complex reproductive health issues

An OB-GYN is educated and equipped to care for both average-risk and high-risk pregnancies and perform medical interventions when necessary.

The Role of the Midwife

Certified nurse midwives are highly trained and educated to care for women in all stages of life, from adolescence through menopause, by providing gynecological care through pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

In Texas, a certified nurse midwife must complete an advanced practice registered nurse program, a graduate program in midwifery, and a national certification exam.

Certified nurse midwives often take a holistic approach to care, and they are equipped to care for many different types of pregnancies and deliveries.

They can assist in deliveries in hospitals, home settings, or birth centers, they can prescribe most medications, and they can assist in cesarean sections that an OB-GYN performs.

Many midwives work alongside OB-GYNs, including the midwifery team at CHRISTUS Children’s, and offer care to high-risk patients, including those in need of maternal-fetal medicine care to manage a high-risk pregnancy.

Why Choose a Midwife?

Choosing a midwife as your health care provider offers many benefits for both medical and personal aspects of your care. Midwives’ core philosophy is to empower you and your family.

They focus on providing you with the information and education you need for informed decision-making for you, your baby, and your family. Education and informed decision-making are the core focuses of the health care experience with a midwife.

Clinically, opting for a midwife is associated with positive outcomes for both the mother and baby, including decreased rates of severe perineal tears to the 3rd and 4th degree and, in some cases, reduced risk of preterm births and lower occurrence of cesarean sections.

Midwives also strongly emphasize education and best practices, encouraging a holistic approach to wellness. This comprehensive approach addresses immediate health care needs and fosters a supportive and informed environment for you and your baby.

The Specialized Approach for High-Risk Pregnancies

When a hospital has a midwifery program, you have access to a team of Certified Nurse Midwives.

For example, at the Baylor College of Medicine and the Center for Midwifery and Women’s Health, CHRISTUS Children’s has midwives board-certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and licensed as registered nurses and midwives.

This integrative approach improves your pregnancy and delivery experience, ensuring all medical, emotional, and physical needs are addressed during labor and delivery.

The Center for Midwifery and Women’s Health at CHRISTUS Children’s also complements the expertise of the Fetal Care Center and helps to co-manage the Maternal-Fetal Medicine team.

Because the midwifery group is attached to the Maternal-Fetal Medicine practices at CHRISTUS Children’s, many their patients fall into the high-risk category.

The Role of Doulas

Doulas are not medical professionals like OB-GYNs and midwives, but they can play an important role in the birthing process for expecting parents.

A doula’s main role is to offer continuous comfort and support during labor and delivery, including breathing and laboring techniques, as well as emotional reassurance.

They collaborate with the clinical care provided by midwives or OB-GYNs and focus on the mother’s expectations and well-being.

At CHRISTUS Children’s, doulas are seen as a beneficial addition to the team. While they provide services that patients must seek out independently, their role is highly valued.

Your childbirth journey is unique to you, and choosing the right support team is an important decision.

By understanding the types of providers available to you, you can be empowered to make an informed decision for a safe and fulfilling birth experience that aligns with your personal health needs and preferences.

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