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Choosing an OB or Midwife

Expectant couples have several options when it comes to quality obstetrical care. Think about which options in pregnancy and childbirth are important to you so that you can find a healthcare provider who shares your birth philosophy. Here is a good list of the types of caregivers available.

Obstetrician (OB/GYN): An obstetrician is a physician who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth. OBs usually deliver in hospitals or birthing centers. If they have a FACOG credential, it means that they are a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Family Physician: A family practitioner is trained in all aspects of family care including obstetrics, pediatrics, gynecology and internal medicine.

Nurse-Midwife: A certified nurse-midwife has a degree in nursing with specialty training in obstetrics. They can provide complete care for normal healthy pregnancies and must be associated with a backup OB in the event of complications. They can deliver in hospitals, birthing centers and homes. Midwives are an appealing option for expectant parents who want a more individual, less routine approach for the birth of their baby. This isn't to say midwives are better or more qualified than doctors. They're different professionals with different philosophies.

Traditional or Lay Midwife: This type of midwife has training in midwifery only and works with low risk pregnancies. You need to check with your state to see what types of licensing/certification is required. They usually attend home births or births at birthing centers.

Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist (Perinatologist): This type of physician is an obstetrician with special training in the care of high risk pregnancies. Usually, a perinatologist will see patients referred by an obstetrician or family practitioner and will work with them in managing high risk care.

Once you decide what type of caregiver you want, make a list of potential providers. After you've narrowed down the list, call to schedule interviews. Be sure to tell the receptionist that this is an interview only and ask if there will be a fee. Before you go to the interviews, make a list of questions and TAKE THE LIST WITH YOU.

If possible, both expectant parents should attend the interviews. Use the questions below as a guide you during your interviews. Although the doctor or nurse-midwife may answer all the questions effectively, trust your instincts if the relationship doesn't feel like a good fit, and ask yourself why. Most doctors only have about 10-15 minutes to spare for your interview. Midwives may be able to give you a little more time. If the interview takes longer (up to 30 minutes) you may be charged a consultation fee. Remember, when you choose a doctor or nurse-midwife, you're also choosing the institution where you'll deliver, which will have its own protocols and procedures. Make sure and check with support staff in the front office about where the doctor or nurse-midwife has hospital privileges.

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