Finding a Doctor or Midwife Checklist

Your doctor or midwife will be a central player in your pregnancy -- so you want to choose the perfect person for the job. Here, a handy checklist that will help you make your choice.

Doctor or Midwife?

  • Obstetrician/gynecologists (ob/gyns). These MDs specialize in women's reproductive care. In addition to medical school, they complete specialized training in obstetrics and gynecology. To become board-certified, they must pass written and oral exams. Certified ob/gyns can become fellows of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Ob/gyns usually deliver babies in hospitals. They vary widely in their views about managing childbirth, from conservative to very open-minded about what goes on in the delivery room.
  • Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs). Often simply called midwives, CNMs are registered nurses with special training in the care of women with normal, low-risk pregnancies. They have also completed a program in nurse-midwifery (or a Master's program) accredited by or with pre-accreditation status from the Division of Accreditation of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. For certification, they must pass a national exam and maintain an active nursing license. Midwives tend to take a low-tech, personalized approach to childbirth, often with an emphasis on childbirth preparation and education. They may deliver babies in a hospital, a birthing center, or in the parents' home, and they should have collaborative arrangements with a medical doctor in case of complications. You should inquire to find out what those arrangements are.
  • Family practitioners (FPs). These medical doctors are a bit like the old-fashioned family doctor, providing basic medical care for a variety of conditions. After medical school, FPs receive specialized training in family medicine, including obstetrics, and must pass an exam to become certified. They are trained to provide care for normal, low-risk pregnancies and deliveries.

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