General practitioners are well-versed in a wide range of medical specialties and may be equipped to cover maternity and labor duties. The quality of care from family physicians is generally described as “high-touch and low-tech,” but not all family doctors are comfortable with Obstetrics – especially if closer monitoring for a high-risk pregnancy is required.
Doctors of Obstetrics and Gynecology are specially trained to provide medical and surgical care to pregnant women. After attending medical school, OBGYNs complete a four-year residency program studying reproduction, pregnancy, and labor complications in all forms. They may also pursue subspecialties such as oncology and infertility. OBGYNs perform prenatal check-ups and attend both vaginal and cesarean deliveries.
Certified Nurse Midwives
Certified Nurse Midwives are registered nurses who have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in a medical field, passed an exam, and graduated from a program accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Most nurse-midwives consult with OB/GYNs for complications or patient concerns, but they are trained to provide comprehensive, family-centered maternity care from the first prenatal visit through labor, delivery, and the postpartum period.
Depending on the state, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) may work independently of physicians: performing physical exams, diagnosing patients, and prescribing treatment. The scope of practice ranges from minimal supportive care to highly complex specialization, but all Nurse Practitioners have a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and a Nurse Practitioner Master’s that takes anywhere from two to four years, depending on how much clinical work is necessary.
Whether at the OB, the hospital, or the pediatrician, nurses are often the best advocates for mother and baby. Along with checking vitals and keeping track of paperwork, these incredible caregivers often provide the best encouragement through labor and delivery. Depending on the degrees they’ve earned, nurses typically fall into one of three categories: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and Registered Nurse (RN).
Most pregnant women will see a phlebotomist at least twice during their pregnancies. These professionals have completed a training program, which includes study in anatomy and physiology, and have obtained certification to practice. Phlebotomists draw blood for screenings, donation, and testing. Many practices devoted to women’s health have a phlebotomist on staff, but some doctors may send their patients to special clinics to have their blood drawn.
Sonographers have an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree, which includes anatomy and physiology classes and clinical training in the interpretation of images. The highest level of sonographer is a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer who has passed an exam in one or more specialty areas (like obstetrics and gynecology). Most pregnant women visit the sonographer at 6-8 weeks, 11-13 weeks, and 18-20 weeks.
Physician Anesthesiologists have completed four year pre-med degrees and four-year anesthesiology residency programs. Anesthesiology Assistants have also completed four-year pre-med degrees, as well as an accredited anesthesiologist assistant program that includes passing a performance exam. Nurse Anesthetists are registered nurses with Bachelor of Science degrees, a year of practice experience, the completion of an accredited 2-3 year anesthesia training program, and passage of a national certification exam.
Doulas are childbirth assistants specially trained to provide support during labor and delivery. A doula will help keep communications clear and open, and she’ll advocate for mom’s wishes and rights. Where a midwife’s role is more clinical and focuses on ensuring the safety of mom and baby, a doula’s goal is helping mom feel relaxed, strong, and emotionally supported throughout labor. Experienced doulas are knowledgeable about alternative pain management, soothing touch, and breathing techniques. Doulas help to make sure moms are hydrated, rested, and educated. They can also provide breastfeeding direction, answer questions about baby care, and help new parents adjust to life at home with a baby.
IBCLC & CLC
Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) must complete 90 hours of study in human lactation and breastfeeding, log hundreds of hours of clinical experience, and take an examination similar to the boards taken by medical doctors, which is the only internationally-accepted, standardized lactation credential available They are qualified to provide education and support, and they are able to diagnose problems like tongue ties, mastitis, and other issues which may complicate breastfeeding.
Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) take a 45-hour course in breastfeeding management, pass a final exam, perform dozens of hands-on consults, and take continuing education credits every three years to maintain certification. CLCs provide education, counseling, and support to breastfeeding moms, and they refer women who may be having complications or need a diagnosis to an IBCLC or other healthcare professional.
These doctors will visit the hospital within 24 hours of birth to weigh and measure the baby, assess vitals, and take a small blood sample to screen for potential issues. “Well child” visits are scheduled frequently during the first few years, and good pediatricians often become trusted advisors regarding any physical, behavioral, or mental health questions parents may have about their children.
- Kids Health: Medical Care and Your Newborn
- The Bump: Labor and Delivery Staff: Who Will Be in the Room with You?
- American Society of Anesthesiologists: About the Profession
- What to Expect: What Type of Practitioner Is Right for Your Pregnancy?
- WebMD: Choosing a Healthcare Provider for Your Pregnancy and Childbirth
- ALPP: CLC Scope of Practice