Pregnancy and birth are important life events that come with physical, emotional, and relationship changes. Choosing a health care provider is an important part of the process. Obstetricians, family doctors, midwives and nurse practitioners are all qualified to provide prenatal care. Sometimes a range of health care providers work together to care for a pregnant woman as a team. The choice of care provider is highly individual – your own personal preferences, together with elements of your health will dictate the best choice for your situation. Spend some time thinking about which type of care provider bests suits your wants and needs. All providers support and encourage normal birth and try to minimize interventions.
Obstetricians are highly trained in female reproductive health during pre-conception, pregnancy, labour and birth, and postpartum care. Obstetricians support normal vaginal delivery but also manage more complicated pregnancies (e.g. high blood pressure, heart disease, multiple pregnancy). You will likely be referred to an obstetrician when complications arise. Obstetricians may also provide shared care together with a family doctor or midwife.
Many family physicians are skilled in obstetrics, labour and birth, and postpartum and newborn care. These doctors are able to provide prenatal and postpartum care for lower-risk pregnant women. Family physicians can also treat other health concerns that aren’t specifically related to pregnancy in one visit. If you have several health concerns, seeing a family physician may reduce the overall number of appointments you need. A family doctor can provide continuous care throughout your pregnancy, labour and delivery and then care for your newborn baby. Nurse practitioners may also provide prenatal care in conjunction with family doctors.
Registered Midwives provide primary care during pregnancy, labour, birth, and the postpartum period. They provide continuous care for women with low-risk pregnancies. Midwives conduct physical examinations, order screening and diagnostic tests, and provide support for normal vaginal births. They attend births in many settings, including hospital, home, and birthing centres.