Need to Know: Childbirth Options

Apart from your baby’s parents, the team you choose for your pregnancy and birth are the first and most important people in their life. Connecting to the right healthcare practitioners is important. However, because practitioners vary widely in training, philosophy and approach – as well as where they practice during childbirth – making a decision may be a challenge. To help you make a more informed choice on this important life decision, we’ve compiled the following information:


What: OB-GYNs (obstetrician-gynecologists) are medical doctors with specialized training in women’s health.

Who: OB-GYNs work with both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies. They provide care for expectant mothers who are carrying multiples and those who have pre-existing medical conditions, gestational diabetes, placenta previa or other complications. If a mother needs/wants medical intervention during birth (such as an epidural or a C-section), OB-GYNs can help.

Where: Hospitals. OBs are more likely than other practitioners to use surgical or technological interventions.

Why: You may have an OB-GYN you already like; your doctor and/or practice can handle all pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, labor, childbirth, postpartum and well-woman care; you may have a high- risk pregnancy. About 90% of women in the U.S. use OB-GYNs.

Family Physician

What: Trained in a variety of disciplines including internal medicine, obstetrics and pediatrics, family physicians treat whole families.

Who: Family physicians work with low-risk pregnancies and will refer you to an obstetrician if there are complications.

Where: Hospitals.

Why: Family physicians can treat – and get to know – all members of your family and become a long-term healthcare resource.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

What: Certified nurse midwives (CNM) have nursing degrees, graduate training in midwifery, and must be licensed and certified to practice.

Who: CNMs work with women with low-risk pregnancies – and refer to OBs if there are complications or risks.

Where: Hospitals, birthing centers, homes. While they have back-up OBs for medical interventions during birth, CNMs focus on natural approaches to labor and delivery.

Why: CNMs are highly trained and provide individualized, flexible care; they tend to focus more on nutritional and breastfeeding support than MDs and some offer early pediatric care. CNMs are committed to educating and supporting patients through pregnancy and the childbirth process.

Direct-Entry Midwives

Who: Direct-entry midwives treat low-risk pregnancies. They have extensive training in midwifery but do not have nursing degrees. Certification and licensing varies by state. For more information, visit Midwives Alliance of North America.

Who: Direct-entry midwives work with women with low-risk pregnancies.

Where: Homes and birthing centers.

Why: If you are committed to having a home birth and natural childbirth experience, a direct-entry midwife might be a good option. Like CNMs, they provide education and support.

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