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Understanding your prenatal care options

Prenatal health care practitioners

From SheKnows Canada
Take the guesswork out of your prenatal care, and choose the right practitioner for you. Read on to find out more.

Pregnant woman at the doctor

When you find out you're expecting, it's likely you'll have a list of questions a mile long — especially if you are a new mother! Help ease your mind by choosing the appropriate health care professional for you. Here is a brief rundown of your options.

Family physician

A family doctor is often first in the line of health care providers to a newly expectant mom, as this is where many women turn to confirm their pregnancy. A family practitioner is a primary health care provider with the wealth of knowledge and medical training required to diagnose and treat almost any general health concern, including prenatal wellness. Here are some other things to consider when deciding if your family doctor is the right choice for your prenatal care.

  • If this is your regular doctor, you have already developed a good relationship and comfort level with him or her.
  • Most will deliver at the hospital.
  • They will handle low-risk pregnancies, and if the pregnancy is deemed high risk, they will refer you to an obstetrician.
  • They can advise on all aspects of health and well-being.

OB/GYN

An obstetrician/gynecologist is a medical professional who specializes in pregnancy, labour, prenatal as well as postpartum care. This physician is also trained in the area of female reproductive health. With the completed years of specialty study and almost daily exposure to both common and complicated pregnancies, this doctor has the training and expertise to handle it all. Here are a few other reasons an OB/GYN might be right for you.

  • An OB/GYN is qualified to handle high-risk pregnancies, such as those where the expectant mother has pre-eclampsia or is carrying multiples.
  • An OB/GYN will deliver at the hospital.
  • An OB/GYN may work with other OB/GYNs in a clinic or hospital setting. This may mean you have to see another doctor on occasion, but that also means there will be more than one physician available for appointments and delivery.

Midwife

A midwife is an extensively trained professional in the area of pregnancy, labour and prenatal/postpartum care. There may be a wide variety of clinical and educational backgrounds in the field of midwifery, but in general, midwives are required to be registered and have a strong education background in the field. Read on for more information on midwives to help determine if it's the right choice for you.

  • A midwife will become the primary caregiver during the entire pregnancy and for several weeks after.
  • Midwives can help deliver in the hospital, birthing centre or in the mother's home.
  • A midwife will refer the pregnancy to an OB/GYN when necessary.
  • Midwives provide emotional as well as physical support.

Doula

A doula will focus primarily on helping a woman through labour and delivery. While she isn't qualified to take on the role of prenatal caregiver — and should never substitute for such — here are a few reasons to consult with a doula during pregnancy.

  • A doula is qualified to provide emotional support and is trained to assist in the birthing process.
  • A doula will be able to teach an expectant mom effective ways to deal with labour pains and will be there to support the process.
  • A doula can play a vital role in home births and natural childbirth.

More on a healthy pregnancy

5 Foods to avoid while pregnant
10 Embarrassing pregnancy questions answered
Preparing for baby

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