How to Choose Your Obstetrician

There are several types of health care providers who can care for your needs during pregnancy and childbirth. Be sure to explore your options and evaluate what is most important to you before making a decision.

By: Sara Babcock, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Center for Perinatal Care

If you’ve decided to have a baby, the most important thing you can do is take good care of yourself!

When planning for a pregnancy it is always a good idea to have a preconception health visit with your provider. Together, you will review your current health and discuss certain aspects that may impact you or your baby’s health. This visit can help ensure that you are physically ready for pregnancy and that your baby will be as healthy as possible.

Once you are pregnant, see your provider as soon as possible to begin getting prenatal care. Choosing who will help care for you during your pregnancy, labor and delivery is very important. There are several types of health care providers who can care for your needs during pregnancy and childbirth. Be sure to explore your options and evaluate what is most important to you before making a decision.

Some obstetric health care providers to consider include:

Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB/GYN): A medical doctor who is specially trained to provide medical and surgical care to women, OB/GYNs spend four years after medical school in a residency program studying pregnancy, reproduction and female medical and surgical problems. To verify the credentials of an obstetrician, contact the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Specialists who mainly provide pregnancy care are obstetricians while gynecologists primarily provide female reproductive system care.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs): Specially trained, licensed professionals experienced in providing obstetric and newborn care, CNMs provide comprehensive, family-centered maternity care from the first prenatal visit through labor, delivery and after the birth of your baby. Midwives are registered nurses who have earned their master’s degree in nursing, with a strong emphasis on clinical training in midwifery. Midwives work with obstetricians who are always available to assist if complications occur during pregnancy, labor or delivery.

Family practitioner (FP): A medical doctor who specializes in the health care of all family members. FPs provide normal OB/GYN care but will refer high-risk pregnancies and other problems to an OB/GYN. All family practitioners are trained to perform cesarean births in an emergency and also to assist other specialists in doing the procedure.

Perinatologist: Also called maternal-fetal medicine specialists, a perinatologist is an obstetrician who specializes in the care of women who may face special problems during pregnancy. These include young women under age 18 and women over age 35; women with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and sexually transmitted diseases; women with inherited (genetic) disorders; and women who have had problems with previous pregnancies. Perinatologists manage high-risk pregnancies, preconception counseling and sophisticated prenatal diagnosis and treatment.

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