Choosing a Pregnancy Caregiver

In most parts of Canada, pregnant women can choose one of three pregnancy caregivers: a midwife, a family doctor, or an obstetrician. Each has ins and outs, but which one is right for you?

Pregnancy caregivers
Pregnancy caregivers
 

Pregnancy and birth are transformative experiences – just ask anyone who’s been through either! During this unique time in your life, you’ll want to find a health professional that you trust and feel comfortable with. In most parts of Canada, pregnant women can choose one of three pregnancy caregivers: a midwife, a family doctor, or an obstetrician. Each has ins and outs, but which one is right for you? Read on to find out.

 

 

Midwives

In many parts of Canada, midwives provide primary health care to pregnant women. A midwife is highly educated and trained in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care. Midwives recognize that pregnancy is an emotional and physical experience, and that care after birth is just as important as prenatal care and support during labour and birth. In most provinces, midwives can attend home and hospital births.

Generally, women love that midwives offer such personalized, family-oriented care, and enjoy longer, in-depth prenatal appointments. They also appreciate the continuity of care throughout the entire experience. If you’re hoping for a home birth or a hospital or birthing centre birth with minimal interventions or medical pain relief, a midwife is your best match. It’s important to know that midwives only work with low-risk clients, and not all provinces have regulated midwifery yet, so depending on where you live, there may be fees for their services. And throughout Canada, midwives are in high demand, so you might have a hard time finding one.

To find a midwife in your area, visit the Canadian Midwifery Regulators Consortium.

Family Doctors

Family doctors have wide-ranging medical expertise of the human body, pregnancy and birth included. Many family doctors will provide prenatal care up to a certain point (generally around the start of the third trimester), and then transfer you to an OB of their referral or your choice. Other family doctors will care for you throughout your pregnancy and attend your birth.

The great thing about working with your family doctor during pregnancy is that you have an existing relationship with her. She knows your medical history and will continue caring for you after your baby is born. (Maybe she’ll even be your baby’s doctor, too!) Keep in mind that since family doctors aren’t trained in high-risk pregnancy and birth, they may transfer your care to an OB if anything out of the ordinary happens (like you develop preeclampsia or gestational diabetes). And your appointments may be shorter with a family doctor, if she has a busy practice.

If you don’t have a family doctor, visit your province’s College of Physicians and Surgeons website for help finding one.

Obstetricians (OBs)

An obstetrician is a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health, with training in pregnancy and birth. OBs have seen a full range of pregnancies, and can handle anything from an uncomplicated vaginal birth to a Caesarean section. Because they are equipped for high-risk pregnancy and birth, many women feel most comfortable with an OB. One downside is that OBs are generally very busy, and prenatal and postpartum visits tend to be quite short. And if your OB practices in a team, she may not be the one who attends your birth.

To get an obstetrician, you’ll generally need a referral, so the best approach is to ask your family doctor to help you find one.

Whichever caregiver you choose, the most important thing is that you feel respected. Do you feel comfortable asking her anything that’s on your mind? Do you feel rushed at appointments? Does she take your concerns seriously, and consult you when making decisions? These are the things that matter most. You may be hesitant to change caregivers partway through your pregnancy, but you’ll never regret finding someone you trust – even at the last minute.

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