Midwife vs doctor for delivery

4 Differences Between a Midwife and a Physician

We love our midwives here at Overlake OB/GYN. They allow us to give the ultimate well-rounded care to our pregnant mothers and their babies. While there was a time when midwives were the only assistance available to women in labor, they quickly faded into the background with the advent of modern medicine. This was unfortunate because midwives play a crucial role in the holistic care of pregnant women – including reproductive care, labor support, post-natal care and lactation assistance.

Our patients are often confused about the role a midwife plays and how it is different from that of a physician – or OB/GYN. Here are four of the most notable differences.


4 Differences Between Midwives and Physicians

Education. The most obvious difference between midwives and physicians is the type of education they receive. An OB/GYN has gone through four years of formal medical school, four years of a medical residency that involves surgical training and an additional three years in a residency specific to obstetrics and gynecology. In most cases, an OB/GYN has never seen a homebirth and may have never witnessed a birth in a birthing center.Midwives are also trained but their training is much different. Midwifery training is focused solely on the reproductive care of women, with the specific intent of supporting women through their pregnancy and labor, providing regular prenatal care to the mother and her baby as well as providing post-natal care and breastfeeding support. There are different levels of midwifery training but here at Overlake, our midwives all have Bachelor’s degrees and are registered nurses that have gone on to become Certified Nurse Midwives.

Different Models of Care. This is where it gets a bit tricky. In the “general world” the midwifery model of care – which is mother-and-child-based – is much different than the medical model, which is about controlled medical management of a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth. This latter view of childbirth has led to medical interventions that are not always necessary, nor are they optimal for positive birth outcomes. However, the pendulum is swinging back into balance. For example, in a practice like ours – where Nurse Midwives are on staff – women can enjoy the best of both model. They can experience a normal healthy pregnancy and birth process (pregnancy is NOT a disease, or a sickness – it is a normal and healthy biological event!) and medical support is close at hand if it is needed.

Healthy versus High-Risk Pregnancy. An educated and trained midwife will never sign on as the sole healthcare provider for a woman who is experiencing a “high risk pregnancy”. Once a pregnancy is determined to be high-risk, midwives will refer the mother to an OB/GYN if she doesn’t have one of her own so the OB and the midwife can work together as a team for the safest and healthiest outcome for mother and child. This is a wonderful alternative because the mother has all modern medical conventions can offer but still gets the continuous emotional support from her midwife.

The Birthing Experience. An OB/GYN is working in shifts in addition to being on call for her patients. This means that there is often more than one woman at a time in labor, and the OB is dividing her time between them. In some hospitals, this may mean less one-on-one interaction with the OB. A midwife, or a team of midwives, works with women exclusively and is with the mother from the time true labor begins, all the way through the birth of the baby. Statistically, women who employ the assistance of a midwife are less likely to require labor induction, pain medications, epidurals and other medical/surgical interventions, which is why the combination of nurse midwives and OBs can be such a powerful one.

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