The decision to have a child is a life-changing event from the moment it is considered to the time that the pregnancy test confirms it and well beyond that.
The necessary changes in lifestyle to be able to accommodate an additional family member will also mean huge changes in the mother-to-be’s body during this time.
This places great challenges on her body to adapt to carrying a new life to term and while it remains a normal physiological process, conditions can arise that may be detrimental to either or both mother and child, which have to be managed to ensure the best possible outcome.
With the importance of human reproduction in the survival of our species to the present day, many rituals and much scientific study have been devoted to the care and management of pregnancy and childbirth, which has spurred the steady demand for midwives and obstetricians in human society.
From prehistoric times, the social nature of human beings is such that women will often seek assistance during pregnancy and childbirth with an awareness of the stakes involved. So for any parent to be, it helps to understand the important similarities and differences that can be seen with both midwives and obstetricians.
Before the advent of modern medical science, knowledge and understanding of pregnancy and childbirth were very limited and often mired in mysticism and traditions. Traditional midwives focused on regular visits to women who were suspected or confirmed pregnant to provide advice and folk medicine, as well as assistance during childbirth and immediately after, often in the patient’s home.
Today’s midwives are highly trained and regulated medical professionals, with the expertise of nurses and specialization on the aspects of obstetrics (pregnancy and childbirth). They often serve communities as an alternative to OB-GYNs, especially if access to a doctor or a hospital is unavailable, although they aren’t trained for medical interventions such as Caesarean sections.
By the 18th century, surgeons in the booming medical field began taking a more active role in pregnancy and childbirth. This led to the development of the field of study known as obstetrics, which men soon dominated in response to midwifery being .
Today’s obstetricians are usually trained in the related field of gynecology (or the study of the female reproductive system), which led to the surgical field of obstetrics and gynaecology (or OB-GYN). Like midwives, they’re trained and licensed to provide medical assistance to women during pregnancy and childbirth. However, OB-GYNs are also trained to perform surgical procedures and interventions when necessary, such as Caesarean sections.
Now that you know more about these medical specialists, we can compare the advantages and disadvantages of each professional’s services.
OB-GYNs are trained and licensed to provide assistance in all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, including training for necessary medical interventions, such as Caesarean sections if the child can’t be delivered normally. This makes them the ideal choice for high-risk pregnancies, such as multiples (e.g. twins) or those with underlying medical conditions.
While midwives are trained and licensed similarly for handling pregnancy and childbirth, unlike OB-GYNs they’re not trained to perform medical interventions should an emergency arise. Due to their more traditional approach, they are often better able to provide emotional support for couples transitioning to parenthood and can give more detailed advice such as proper nutrition or breastfeeding methods. They’re better suited for low-risk pregnancies with no serious underlying medical conditions.
Birth Environment and Planning
OB-GYNs, due to the nature of their work and resultant training, prefer to have women confined in a hospital setting for treatment and management of pregnancy complications as well as childbirth.
Due to this, they may advocate more frequent interventions that can adversely affect a woman’s experience. And while women have often given birth lying on their backs (vaginally or via C-section) in sterile decorated delivery rooms without support at their side, a growing number of hospitals now have birthing suites that have a more home-like atmosphere and allow alternative birth positions such as in a special tub or with a birthing stool, while allowing limited family or friends to be present.
Most midwives, on the other hand, work outside of a typical hospital setting, usually in birthing clinics that have become popular for providing amenities traditionally lacking in a hospital, such as birthing tubs, birth stools or pools. In addition, they tend to favor “natural” pain management such as showers, massages and position changes and opt for vaginal births as much as possible. They’re also more likely to allow the family or friends to participate in the birth process as support for the laboring mother.
With the various options and choices that both midwives and OB-GYNs offer to women entering motherhood, it’s still best to find and consult the medical professional that meets your needs and provides the needed support and guidance. The most important thing is that whoever you select adequately offers advice and personal support as you embark on the journey to parenthood.