The nine months of pregnancy are all about choices. These include everything from the best
exercise and the most comfortable shoes to your prenatal care provider and birth location. Pregnancy and the birth
of a child are ranked as one of the most memorable experiences for women, so being well informed of all your
options can help ensure a gratifying experience for you and your family. Two things you will make decisions about
early in pregnancy are your health care provider and your birth location. These decisions often go hand in hand
because most health care providers have chosen birth locations. Most women base their choices on health histories,
preferences, finances, and well informed opinions.
Obstetricians are medical doctors who specialize in the management of pregnancy, labor and
birth. They also receive specialized education in the health of the female reproductive system and surgical care.
Much of their education focuses on the detection and management of obstetrical and gynecological problems. Many
women who have had complicated pregnancies in the past or who have certain medical conditions will choose an
obstetrician for their pregnancy care to ensure that any problems that develop can be handled effectively.
Obstetricians normally do deliveries in a hospital setting.
These physicians have completed schooling and training in various fields of medicine including
obstetrics, pediatrics, surgery, and internal medicine. During their residency, they gain experience in treating
the whole family. Family practitioners normally handle low risk pregnancies, and most do deliveries in
These health care providers can have a wide spectrum of training. Certified nurse-midwives have
a nursing degree plus additional training in midwifery. Direct-entry midwives or certified professional midwives
have extensive training in midwifery, although they do not have a nursing degree. Most midwives offer care that is
flexible and individualized with little medical intervention; therefore, they usually care only for low risk
pregnancies. Many midwives offer deliveries in homes, birthing centers, or hospitals.
If you have chosen an obstetrician or family practitioner as your health care provider, you are most likely
making plans for a hospital birth. The number of births attended by midwives in the hospital setting is also
increasing. Some families feel more comfortable having access to technology and skilled professionals in case
of an emergency. There may be more restrictions during labor and birth. Make sure to tour your hospital before
your birth and learn about all the guidelines and policies regarding laboring techniques, routine
interventions, use of cameras or video, and newborn care.
The first free standing birthing center was opened in 1974 in an effort to give women a more
relaxed setting. Midwives are often the sole health care providers at free standing birthing centers, but there are
some obstetricians who will do deliveries at birthing centers located inside hospitals. Birthing centers usually
have fewer restrictions and guidelines and allow for more freedom in making decisions about labor. Birthing centers
are often recommended for pregnancies that are considered low risk and for women who are seeking to have a birth
with few interventions. If you have particular requests for your birth, be sure to talk with a birth center
representative beforehand to discuss policies and guidelines.
For centuries women have been having babies at home. Many women feel more comfortable and
relaxed when birthing in their own environment, however, with this freedom also comes extra responsibilities. For
instance, families wanting to birth at home need to be well educated about possible concerns that can arise and be
open to the option of transporting to a hospital in case of a complication. Midwives are the main health care
providers for home births. Home births are recommended for women with low risk pregnancies. Many women who want no
interventions and a very family-centered birth experience choose to have a home birth.