When a woman is pregnant and seeking prenatal care (and beyond), she has two choices for her type of care provider: A doctor or a midwife.
So what's the difference?
Obstetrician Gynecologists (OB-GYNs) are medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy. They've gone through four years of medical school, plus more as well as years in residency before certification from the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Some work in private practice, others work in hospitals or clinics. In addition to assisting women throughout pregnancy and birth, they can typically also be your general healthcare provider. Many OB-GYNs are deep into the more medical side of how to do things and rely on lots of monitoring, testing, and at times, interventions and medications to insure that their patient and her baby get the best level of care.
Midwives do things a little differently in most cases. They're trained to focus on wellness, rather than sickness or conditions (Some people really do think of pregnancy as a "condition". Isn't that absurd?!) Typically, they're big supporters of unmedicated birth with as few interventions as possible and they seek to provide care that empowers mamas to make the best decisions for what works for them and their babies.
Did you know there's three main types of midwives to choose from?
- Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
CNMs are trained in both nursing and midwifery. They are licensed registered nurses (RNs) who have gone on to a graduate-level nurse-midwifery program and they've received certification from the American College of Midwifery Certification Board. CNMs are licensed to practice in all fifty states and may work in private practice, a freestanding birth center or hospital-affiliated birth center or in a hospital or clinic with nurses and physicians. (Some CNMs will assist in home births.) Like OB-GYNs, CNMs might serve as primary care providers for women and they can prescribe some medications (specifics vary state to state).
- Certified Midwife (CM)
Certified midwives don't have nursing degrees, but they attend the same graduate-level nurse-midwifery programs and take the same certifying exam as CNMs. They're legally permitted to practice in five states (New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware and Missouri. It is only in New York that they may write prescriptions.
- Certified Professional Midwife (CPM)
CPMs are certified through the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). It is not necessary for them to have graduated high school or college degrees and their training varies. Mostly, CPMs graduate from accredited midwifery programs or complete apprenticeship programs. All CPMs must pass written exams as well as skills tests. CPMs are the only midwives whose training requires them to have knowledge of and experience with home births and other births outside of a hospital setting.
As with anything concerning your body, you have choices. You don't have to go to an OB-GYN because that's the kind of provider everyone in your life has gone to. You don't have to go to a midwife because that's the norm you grew up with. Your body, your pregnancy, your baby, YOUR CHOICE!