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Health Care Provider Options for Childbirth: Obstetricians, Family Practitioners, and Midwives

Updated on August 6, 2008

Expectant mothers today have more choices than ever when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth health care. This article looks at the basic philosophies and options available.

Midwifery Model of Care vs. Medical Model of Care

While there are some striking differences in these two perspectives on childbirth, it's important to remember that each caregiver is an individual and you are likely to find a lot of variation. Take a look at the highlights, realizing that this is quite a generalized view.

Medical Model

Focus on managing problems and complications

Labor/birth viewed as dependent on technology

Higher rates of using interventions

Doctor delivers baby

Care is systemized

Midwifery Model

Focus on health, wellness, prevention

Labor/birth viewed as normal physiological processes

Lower rates of using interventions

Mother gives birth

Care is individualized

Pregnancy and Childbirth Health Care Providers

Obstetrician (MD) -

Patient Interaction: Prenatal visits are quick, some less than 10 minutes. Generally stick to the topics that match the current stage of pregnancy. During labor, an OB consults with your nurse by phone or may come to the hospital to check on your labor progress. Obstetricians typically arrive at the hospital at the end of labor, shortly before delivery, and stay through the delivery of the placenta and early recovery. They are surgical specialists who treat the pathologies of pregnancy and childbirth. If mother or baby has health problems during pregnancy or childbirth that compromise health or life, then an OB or a perinatologist (an OB with specialized training to handle very sick mothers and very complicated pregnancies) is necessary.

Family Practice Physician (MD) -

Patient interaction: Prenatal visits may be similar to an OB visit. During labor, a family practice doctor may arrive during the active part of labor and stay through early recovery. Typically, they are present for more of the labor than an OB would be. They care primarily for women with low risk pregnancies and refer to obstetricians if complications arise.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) -

Patient interaction: First prenatal visit typically an hour. Follow-up visits about 20 - 30 minutes. Mother and partner are encouraged to discuss any questions, fears, concerns of any part of pregnancy, labor, birth, or postpartum. Patient education is a key component of midwifery care. In labor, typically begin attending in early to active labor when mom arrives at the hospital, and remain with her through birth and the initial recovery stages.

Licensed Midwives (LM)/Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) -

Patient interaction: Prenatal visits are typically 20 - 60 minutes. In labor, the midwife stays with mom throughout her active labor, through birth, and up to four hours after the birth.

Information in this article provided in part by childbirth educator and professional doula, Kim Palena James. You can find out more about childbirth and pregnancy from Kim's perspective in the following articles:

Best Pregnancy Books

Create a Better Birthplan: How to Write One and What it Can and Cannot Do For You

For more information, browse the articles in the Truth About Pregnancy and Childbirth


Submit a Comment

  • angela_michelle profile image

    Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

    This is a really good hub, I linked to it from my prenatal hub! I also rated it up and marked it useful!

  • Marye Audet profile image

    Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

    Nice job. I used a ob for 2 of mine and the rest were midwife assisted home births. Guess which I liked better.. ;)

    Also the midwives are usually (altho not always) more knowlegeable about herbal helps and natural remedies for things and also the nutritional aspects.