An obstetrician gynecologist is a Medical Doctor, an MD aka a Physician, who has attended medical school and then followed that with a four year residency program to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Some follow that with a two year fellowship program that allows them to specialize even further in high risk pregnancies, fertility, perinatal surgery, etc. During their four year residency they learn to manage pregnancy and birth for low risk and high risk pregnancies, as well as normal and complicated gynecological concerns including cancer and very uncommon and/or infections diseases.
Midwives come to midwifery in a few different ways (read more about that below), but most midwives are Certified Nurse Midwives who are Registered Nurses that do a two year masters program to become a Nurse Practitioner that specializes in midwifery. For the most part they provide care to people with low risk pregnancies and births as well as normal gynecological concerns. Some midwives specialize in other things like ultrasound, infertility, diabetes, cervical cancer, etc, but the average midwife stays within the realms of the “normal.”
Midwives can prescribe medications, make diagnoses, perform procedures. Some midwives assist surgeons with cesarean sections, some midwives perform manual vacuum extractions (the technique used for first trimester abortions and incomplete miscarriages).
So why go to a midwife instead of an Ob Gyn if an Ob Gyn can just do the same as a midwife but more?
Well, unless you have a significant health problem that necessitates an Ob Gyn, research shows that midwives provide better, more holistic care to people with low risk pregnancies and births. Unlike MDs, midwives are trained to focus on the whole patient, helping to find solutions that don’t just fix a problem in the short term, they are able to help patients change lifestyles and solve long-term issues to make better health outcomes years later. The system is generally set up differently for midwives than for Ob Gyns, since midwives are able to spend more time with their patients, are trained to support non medicinal/non pharmacological solutions during labor as well as other times – for example a midwife might have the time and the training to support a patient in active labor by getting them onto a birth ball, massaging their back, coaching them through. That is a skill that medical school doesn’t put much focus on, making it so that midwifery patients who desire an unmedicated birth can do so. Then, when you’re able to avoid an epidural in more patients, you’re also able to avoid the following interventions that can be caused by an epidural.
Now, this is not to say that ObGyns are bad by any means – I work with incredible Ob Gyns all the time. I’m just saying that they are much more focused on the complicated patients they’re seeing than the low risk patients for obvious reasons. If they have a patient on 10 different medications that needs very close monitoring during labor, the low risk patient that needs someone to rub their back and support them through natural, normal labor gets forgotten about, completely understandably. Midwives are the solution to low risk births.
What is a midwife?
What are the different types of midwives?
Can I see a midwife instead of an ObGyn for my pap smear?
What do midwives do?
The Role of a CNM Infographic
What’s the difference between a CNM and a doula?
How to choose a provider
Read here and here about how to become a midwife.
Read here about my personal story.
Advice for becoming a midwife
What is the best part of being a midwife?
Do midwives need people skills?
A day in the life as a midwife
Student loans and midwifery school
Midwifery school, types of midwives, and doulas