When thinking about your reproductive healthcare, you actually have a number of different healthcare providers you can choose from. They vary in their training, certification, skills, and care focus.
Learn about the different reproductive healthcare providers available
Having these options is pretty great, since it means you can seek out the care that you think would be best for you based on your views and values, your medical history, the level of care you will need, and, if you’re TTC, your pregnancy and childbirth preferences. You can choose from:
These nurses have a nursing degree and additional training in midwifery. They provide women’s health care, prenatal appointments, and will be present for the labor and delivery of a baby.
Midwives are able to care for most pregnancies as well as labor and deliveries that are low-risk – and most women do fall into this category – as they can treat women who need little medical intervention. Their care is also based in the idea that pregnancy and childbirth are normal processes.
Many women who share this view may decide to choose a midwife for their care for this reason and because they want minimal medical intervention. Many midwives work with OB/GYNs so that if complications do arise and a pregnancy or delivery becomes high-risk, then a patient can receive more specialized care from doctors as needed.
These are doctors who can also care for women with low-risk pregnancies. They are primary care physicians with a broad range of medical knowledge and so can provide a broad range of care – for everyone from children to older adults.
These doctors have three years of additional training after medical school and some may decide to focus on additional training in obstetrics during this time. Some women prefer to work with these doctors if they saw a family practitioner as their primary care doctor before trying to conceive or getting pregnant and so enjoy having continuous care with someone they already know. And these sort of doctors may simply be more common in rural areas or at particular hospitals.
However, because labor and delivery is only a part of their training and not their focus, much like midwives, they may need to refer women with certain issues to an OB/GYN. And while some will perform vacuum and forceps deliveries if needed, most do not perform C-sections.
Obstetrician-gynecologist or OB/GYN
These doctors have completed four years of training in obstetrics and gynecology after medical school. Their care focus and expertise is pregnancy and women’s reproductive health and they can provide a range of women’s health services.
Many of these doctors can deal with a range of healthcare needs – everything from low-risk pregnancies and deliveries to many types of high-risk pregnancies and deliveries, such as when interventions like a C-section may be needed.
These doctors typically provide prenatal appointments, will deliver the baby at the time of birth, but may not necessarily be with you throughout labor – rather, labor and delivery nurses or midwives may be present for that.
Maternal-fetal medicine specialist
These doctors are also called perinatologists, and they are trained to deal with the highest risk pregnancies. These doctors will not only have completed medical school and standard four-year training in obstetrics and gynecology, but also an additional two or three tears of training to deal with high-risk pregnancies.
If you are seeing another health care provider and any major health issues arise during pregnancy – such as multiples, preeclampsia, or chronic health problems – you may be referred to this type of specialist. These specialists will typically work in collaboration with your other doctors or nurses and may not necessarily attend labor and delivery.