An obstetrician and a midwife both serve women through the process of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. However, the two professionals have different areas of expertise. An obstetrician specializes in the care of women who are pregnant and may need specialized services. A midwife focuses on normal pregnancy and birth with specialist training in non-medical home births. They each bring unique skills to their patients and their practices are very different as a result.
Table of Contents
An obstetrician is also known as an antenatal specialist or gynecologist (endocrinologist if they specialize in hormonal issues). An obstetrician has completed medical school and residency training in obstetrics. They can certify as a generalist or subspecialist such as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, maternal-fetal surgical specialist, or another type of specialty certification depending on their practice needs.
What does an obstetrician do?
An obstetrician is a gynecologist who specializes in the care of women during their pregnancy. As a provider of perinatal care, an obstetrician’s main responsibilities are to keep the pregnancy healthy and progressing normally, keep the baby growing and developing as expected, and prevent and manage any complications that may arise during the pregnancy.
An obstetrician may also be referred to as an antenatal specialist or a perinatologist. They are trained to deal with a wide range of issues that may arise during the pregnancy, including the diagnosis and management of any complications. An obstetrician may also be involved with an expectant mother’s care before she even knows she’s pregnant, including the identification and management or treatment of any risk factors.
What does a midwife do?
The midwife’s focus is on normal pregnancies and normal deliveries. They are trained in non-medical methods, including herbal remedies and other forms of natural healing, and are often qualified to offer advice and suggestions to their patients.
The midwife’s role is to support, advise, and educate all parties involved in the pregnancy and childbirth, including the mother and her partner, family members, and other health care professionals working with the mother. A midwife’s training, experience, and skillset is appropriately suited to normal pregnancies and normal childbirth. Their methods are suited to low-risk pregnancies, where there are no complications that put the mother or baby at risk.
Major Differences in Practice
An obstetrician’s practice is not limited to just pregnant women. Obstetricians also deliver babies, and they have special skills and training in the management of complications during labor and birth. Midwives, on the other hand, have special training in normal deliveries where complications are rare. An obstetrician’s practice is largely based on pregnancy, with the majority of their patients either being pregnant or recently giving birth.
A midwife’s practice, on the other hand, is a mix of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care. The midwife is often consulted by an expectant mother early in her pregnancy, as she may be at risk for certain complications and require extra monitoring. The midwife may also be consulted when complications arise during the pregnancy, or when a woman’s risk factors indicate a need for extra monitoring.
Major Differences in Training
Obstetricians are generalists. Midwives are specialists in natural births and are trained in specific techniques and methods that are non-medical. As a result, obstetricians have a wider range of knowledge and skill sets than midwives. Midwives are trained in specific techniques and approaches to managing normal deliveries.
Obstetricians complete a four-year undergraduate program. They then attend medical school for three years, followed by a three-year residency program that is generally focused on obstetrics and gynecology. Midwives complete an undergraduate program focused on natural health and healing, followed by a two-year master’s program focused on natural births. They then complete a clinical apprenticeship, which focuses on the practical application of their skills.
Major Differences in Certification and Licensing
Obstetricians are certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Midwives are certified and licensed by their state.
Major Differences in Responsibilities
Obstetricians have a wider scope of responsibilities, as they are trained to handle a wide range of potential complications and are involved with their patients from the very beginning of their pregnancy. Midwives, on the other hand, are trained to handle the normal deliveries expected in low-risk pregnancies and are involved with their patients for a much shorter period of time, usually only during their pregnancy.
Major Differences in Delivery and Neonatal Care
Obstetricians are trained to handle all types of deliveries. They have the skills and training to handle normal deliveries, as well as complicated births and dangerous situations. Midwives are trained to handle normal deliveries but are not equipped to handle complicated births. When complications arise, they are trained to recognize when they need to make a call to their attending physician.
In the event of an emergency, an obstetrician is trained to handle the situation, while a midwife is not. An obstetrician is trained to conduct cesarean sections and manage any type of emergency that may arise. A midwife, on the other hand, has limited training in emergencies, as their focus is on normal deliveries.
Major Differences in Neonatal Care
Obstetricians are responsible for their patients from the moment they discover they are pregnant. Midwives, on the other hand, are only involved in the patient’s care during their pregnancy. When the baby is born, they are referred to the obstetrician.
Which is Better for You?
When deciding between an obstetrician or midwife, it’s important to consider your situation and needs. Both professions are highly qualified and skilled professionals who are capable of providing excellent care.
There are significant differences between obstetricians and midwives, though, so it’s important to keep these in mind when choosing who to work with. An obstetrician is the best choice for women who are at a higher risk of complications during their pregnancy. Midwives are best suited to low-risk pregnancies. An obstetrician is also the best choice for women who are hoping to have a vaginal birth but may require medical intervention during labor. Midwives are best suited for women who plan to have a natural birth at home.
Women considering seeking care from a midwife will want to consider the type of care they want. If you’re interested in a more natural approach to childbirth, you may want to choose a midwife. On the other hand, if you’re interested in a quick, low-risk birth or have other health or pregnancy concerns, an obstetrician may be a better choice for you. If you’re still unsure, it may be best to make an appointment with a local obstetrician and midwife to discuss your options.
Both types of health professionals can be great resources for women during pregnancy and beyond. The National Association of Midwives (NAM) and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) offer certifications and credentials for midwives and obstetricians that are recognized by insurance companies, federal agencies, and state governments. It’s important to note that midwives and obstetricians can practice without being certified or licensed. A certified or licensed midwife is not necessarily better than a certified or licensed obstetrician . What matters is that you choose the health care provider that’s right for you.