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Choosing a Prenatal Care Provider: Doctors, Midwives and Birth Centers

Midwife, Midwifery, Prenatal, Prenatal Appointments, Prenatal Care

You have peed on more sticks than you can count, suffered through what seems like a million two-week waits, and used every ovulation predictor known to man. Now it is official – you are pregnant. If you have not done so already, it is time for you to choose a prenatal care provider.

You have several choices for your prenatal care. In a normal, healthy, low-risk pregnancy, you may want to consider the care of a midwife. A midwife is a person who has been trained through a course in midwifery and is registered or legally licensed to practice midwifery. A midwife may either practice on her own or with other midwives at a birthing center, or she may practice in conjunction with a doctor or group of doctors.

You may find that a midwife who practices at a birthing center is more likely to treat your pregnancy as a natural state of being rather than as a medical condition. When I was looking for a prenatal care provider, I interviewed a midwife at a nearby birthing center. The setting at the birthing center was homey and casual, and I was guaranteed that the midwife attending me during my prenatal care would be the midwife delivering my child (barring unusual circumstances). A typical prenatal visit included a discussion with the midwife about my questions and how I was feeling, followed by a brief exam to check on the baby. I did not have to wait in a sterile waiting room, get weighed in by a nurse, or sit on a paper covered exam table. The midwife was very attentive to my needs and even gave me her email address and cell phone number. I found that I was comfortable calling her with my questions, and that she encouraged me to be very involved with my own pregnancy.

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Another choice for prenatal care providers during pregnancy is to find a group of doctors that you like or a single doctor in a group. I found this type of care to be less personal. A typical visit would include getting checked in at the desk, a wait in the waiting room with other patients, then a trip back to the nurse. The nurse would weigh me and take a urine sample, then she would ask how I was feeling. After the visit with the nurse, I would be sent back to an exam room where the doctor would pop in, measure my belly, and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. At a typical prenatal visit, I would spend about 15 minutes waiting and visiting with the nurse and about 5 minutes with the actual doctor. I found out late in my pregnancy that even though I was seeing one doctor in the practice, the doctor who was on call would deliver my baby.

Finally, you may want to consider seeing an obstetrician who is a sole practitioner for your prenatal care. If you go this route in your pregnancy, be sure that you are willing to accept that your doctor may need to reschedule some prenatal visits with you because she is delivering another patient’s child. In addition, be very sure that you are willing to tolerate what may be long waits for your prenatal appointments.

The trade-off for seeing a doctor that is a sole practitioner for your prenatal visits is that you are more likely that the doctor you see on a regular basis will be the doctor who is going to deliver your baby. Therefore, it is important that you ask plenty of questions up front about the type of care your doctor delivers and that your personality meshes well with your doctor’s personality.

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The importance of choosing the right prenatal care provider for your pregnancy cannot be overstated. You will be visiting your care provider frequently during the course of the pregnancy, and it is essential that you find a prenatal care provider that you are comfortable with and like. No matter what care provider you choose, be sure to investigate your prenatal care provider’s credentials. Make certain that your prenatal care provider is properly licensed, and secure recommendations from other patients, nurses, and general practitioners.