Midwife or Obstetrician

How to choose between a midwife and an obstetrician for your birth.

Giving birth is one of the most memorable occasions in your life. It is vitally important that you hand select the birth team to attend to you during your own childbirth. Midwives and obstetricians are both qualified to help you birth your baby, yet their roles may be quite different.

Comparisons between a Midwife and an Obstetrician

  1. Both midwives and obstetricians can help you give birth to your baby.
  2. Both professionals can take care of your prenatal and postpartum needs.
  3. Midwives and obstetricians can both write prescription orders and referrals for prenatal testing.

Contrasts between a Midwife and an Obstetrician

  1. Midwives tend to have a more holistic, natural philosophy about childbirth, whereas obstetricians are more likely to have a medical perspective and view birth as a risk.
  2. Midwives tend to spend more time with you during labor and in prenatal visits than an obstetrician, who may be in and out of the birthing room until the final stages of pushing and birth.
  3. Obstetricians are more likely than midwives to use medical interventions such as inductions, continuous monitoring, episiotomies as well as recommend cesareans.
  4. Midwives, in some cases, practice in birth centers or a homebirths in addition to hospital births, unlike obstetricians who practice only in a hospital setting.
  5. Obstetricians are trained as surgeons and can do a cesarean, whereas a midwife cannot perform major surgery.
  6. Obstetricians can treat both low and high-risk mothers but midwives can see only low-risk patients.

Exceptions to the Rule

While in general, midwives and obstetricians tend to have different philosophies and practice styles, there may be exceptions to the rule. For example, some obstetricians may be very supportive of natural birth and rarely perform interventions such as episiotomies. On the other hand, some midwives who have worked only in hospital settings may adopt a medical model of birth.

This is one reason why it is crucial to interview your prospective care providers very early in your pregnancy. Use the Questions to Ask form to guide you.

How do YOU decide?

First – figure out your own philosophy. Do you see birth as a highly-medical event that requires all the bells and whistles of the latest technology? If so, you might be happier with an obstetrician. Or do you view birth as a normal event that does not require intervention? Perhaps a midwife is more to your liking.

Second – interview several providers. Ask questions. How receptive are they? Do they take the time to answer your questions or do you feel rushed? What is the office like? Are you put on hold every time you call? All of these factors can guide you into making a decision.

Finding what works for you – a compromise

Some mothers may want the “best of both worlds” – the touch and attention of a continuous knowledgeable person while the comforts of medical safety should it be needed. Very often doulas are chosen as a bridge between both choices. Doulas can work either with obstetricians or midwives to be the familiar presence if that is lacking.

Giving Birth in Hospital, Birth Center or Home

The majority of women today choose a hospital as the place to give birth. However there may be advantages for some mothers to give birth outside of a hospital setting.

Be sure to visit these childbirth related articles: (Coming Soon)

  1. Choosing the Best Childbirth Class
  2. Choosing a Place of Birth
  3. Writing a Birth Plan
  4. Pain Relief Techniques for Labor

How did you decide whether to use a midwife or obstetrician? Share your story.