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Choosing Your Health Care Provider

In the 21st century, we have several options when it comes to quality obstetrical care. Think about which options in pregnancy and childbirth are important to you so that you can find someone who shares your birth philosophy.

Here are some basic definitions of the types of caregivers available . . .

Obstetrician (OB/GYN) ~ An obstetrician is a physician who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth. OBs usually deliver in hospitals and birthing centers. If s/he has an FACOG credential, it means that s/he is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Family Physician ~ A family practitioner is trained in all aspects of family care including obstetrics, pediatrics, gynecology and internal medicine. S/he can manage most uncomplicated pregnancies.

Nurse-Midwife ~ A certified nurse-midwife has a degree in nursing with specialty training in obstetrics. They can provide complete care for normal healthy pregnancies. They must be associated with a backup physician in the event of complications. They can deliver in hospitals, birth centers and homes.

Traditional or Lay Midwife ~ This type of midwife has training in midwifery only and works with low-risk women. You need to check with your state to see what types of licensing/certification is required. They usually attend home births or birthing center births.

Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist (Perinatologist) ~ This type of physician is an obstetrician with special training in the care of high risk pregnancies. Usually a perinatologist will see patients referred by an obstetrician or family physician and will work with them in managing high-risk care.


Once you decide what type of caregiver you want, make a list of potential providers. You may have insurance limitations so be aware of what those may be. Ask your friends and relatives for recommendations as well as labor and delivery nurses at your local hospital and childbirth educators.

After you make your list, call to schedule an interview. Be sure to tell the receptionist that this is an interview only and ask if there is a fee. Before you go to the interviews, make a list of questions and TAKE THE LIST WITH YOU. If possible, both mom and dad should attend.

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