03/05/2023 by Leanna Racine
Building Your Pregnancy Team, Part 1 - Physicians and Midwives
We have all heard that it takes a village to raise a child, right? What about growing a baby? That can take a village too! Pregnancy can be a beautiful and exciting time, but it can also be downright hard - from nausea and vomiting, to anxiety and the mental stress of processing a profound life-challenging event, to navigating loss or challenges along the way, or dealing with aches, pains, and fatigues. This mini blog series will serve to explain and highlight the roles of key professionals across disciplines who are experts in supporting the needs of pregnant people. Part 1 dives into the primary healthcare team of physicians and midwives, and Part 2 will cover additional healthcare and supporting professionals.
So who should be on your pregnancy team? Read below to find out more about physicians and midwives involved in pregnancy care.
OB-GYN: It is common for physicians to be trained in both obstetrics - caring for pregnant people and helping deliver babies, and gynecology - caring for the female reproductive system, and they are referred to as OB-GYNs. Obstetricians care for people during preconception, pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period to make sure that the birthing parent and baby are healthy. OB-GYNs care for patients with uncomplicated pregnancies, diagnose and treat complications during pregnancy, and deliver babies as well as monitor health after childbirth.
Roles of an Obstetrician:
- Perform regular prenatal screenings with associated lab tests and exams - Evaluate the position of the uterus and baby’s growth
- Detect abnormalities or potential complications and coordinate care with maternal-fetal medicine providers
- Utilize tools such as ultrasound and blood or urine tests to monitor the pregnancy - Treat conditions that can affect the pregnancy of your baby
- Manage labor and delivery, including inductions, emergencies, medications, or performing surgery
Provide postpartum care for up to 6 weeks after childbirth.
Midwife: Midwives are healthcare professionals who care for birthing people and newborns around childbirth. Midwives often work with people who have low-risk pregnancies and desire unmedicated vaginal births, and tend to offer more natural and holistic approaches in caring for pregnant and postpartum people, viewing pregnancy and birth as a normal physiological process rather than a condition that needs to be managed. Midwives are not doctors, but may work alongside physicians in hospitals or clinics, provide care at birthing centers, or attend to births at your home.
It is a personal preference whether you choose to work with midwives or OB-GYNs, some people prefer physicians, and others might feel more comfortable with the holistic approach that midwives offer.
Roles of a Midwife:
- Prenatal appointments and routine prenatal care
- Performing ultrasounds, lab testing, and evaluation of the uterus and baby’s growth
- Attending to birth
- Providing newborn care
- Providing postpartum care
- Educating on elements of reproductive health such as nutrition, lactation and fertility
Some may provide routine reproductive care like pelvic exams, pap tests, birth control, and family planning services
- Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM or perinatology): Doctors who specialize in obstetrics for high-risk pregnancies. They provide care for the pregnant person and fetus prior to, during, and shortly after pregnancy by performing prenatal tests, providing treatments, and performing surgeries. Not all pregnant people need to work with MFM providers, and these doctors may act as a consultant during lower-risk pregnancies and the primary care provider for complicated pregnancies or for people with pre-existing health concerns.
- Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Providers (REI or fertility): REI refers to obstetric physicians who specialize in reproductive medicine, hormone function, and primarily address issues related to fertility, often working with families who are trying to conceive.
Stay tuned for Part 2 which will cover additional healthcare providers and professionals who help along the pregnancy journey!