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OB or Midwife? What is the Difference and Which is Better?

If you are newly pregnant or know someone who is, you may be trying to understand the difference between an OB-GYN, GP and Midwife. All 3 health care providers are qualified to care for a woman throughout the prenatal period as well as deliver the baby. While having a GP as your prenatal provider is less common, most people question whether they want to be seen by an OB-GYN or Midwife.

Both OB-GYNs and midwives are able to provide safe and comprehensive prenatal care for women during their pregnancy.  Their main difference relates to their style of care.  If you are looking for a more one-on-one approach you may want to consider using a midwife who will spend between 30-60 minutes with you at each visit as oppose to an OB-GYN who typically spends less than 10-15 minutes. Both can request testing such as blood work and ultrasounds.  Midwives also tend to be non-interventional and will help support a woman through an unmedicated labour.  They do still have the ability to access medication or an epidural if needed for pain relief as long as care is provided in a hospital setting.

With that being said, midwives only work with low-risk pregnancies.  Once a woman becomes high-risk (i.e. gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, breeched position) a midwife can no longer legally provide care and will transfer the patient to an OB-GYN who can provide surgical intervention if necessary.

If you choose to work with a midwife, that midwife will not only follow you throughout your pregnancy but will also attend your labour and birth.  An OB-GYN will follow you throughout your pregnancy but cannot guarantee attending your labour and birth because he or she may not be on shift at the time of your labour.  This means that there is a chance you will not have the same OB-GYN delivering baby!  FEAR NOT! Some hospitals offer a “meet and greet” evening so you and your partner can familiarize yourself with other potential OB-GYNs who you may end up working with. If you're considering working with an OB-GYN, you may want to ask your hospital about this so that you can feel more comfortable throughout your birth experience.

Another difference between an OB-GYN and Midwife relates to post-partum care.  Midwives are highly trained and qualified in pediatric care and will do a home visit 24 hours after birth to help with breastfeeding and assess mom and baby. Care by a Midwife is provided until approximately 6-8 weeks.  OB-GYN’s will do a check in at 6-weeks postpartum and all future primary care appointments will be with your family doctor or baby’s pediatrician.

At the end of the day, the most important factor in deciding between an OB-GYN and Midwife is finding someone who you feel you can trust, connect with and respects your wishes and birth plan.  Both are amazing in their own right but ultimately, you are the deciding factor.

Photo Credits:

Unity Point Health.

Birth Without Excuses

Australian Catholic University.

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