Prenatal care is designed to ensure you and your baby stay as healthy as possible during your pregnancy and delivery.
This makes choosing a provider who helps you feel supported and confident throughout your journey extremely important. Beyond the different types of providers, there are a lot of factors to consider, including personality, philosophy, availability, expertise, facilities and more.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are three questions that can help you begin your decision-making process:
Which type of provider do you prefer?
Assuming your pregnancy doesn’t require a specific type of provider (for instance, high-risk pregnancies typically require a doctor), you have the choice of an OB/GYN doctor, family medicine doctor, certified nurse midwife or nurse practitioner. A few benefits of each:
- OB/GYN doctors can handle every part of your pregnancy, including prenatal, delivery and postpartum care. They can also treat high-risk pregnancies and perform C-sections, as well as take care of additional women’s health needs, such as birth control, pap smears, breast exams and surgery.
- Family medicine doctors often provide some pregnancy and delivery services, but it varies by provider. Those who offer prenatal care offer the added benefit of being your primary care provider and your child’s pediatrician. However, if you end up needing a C-section, an OB/GYN doctor would need to perform the surgery.
- Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) specialize in unmedicated and low-intervention births for low-risk pregnancies and can also serve women’s primary care health needs. However, if the need for a C-section does arise, your CNM would help transfer your care to an OB/GYN to perform the surgery.
- Nurse practitioners in obstetrics and gynecology can provide prenatal and primary care services. However, for the delivery itself, your nurse practitioner would help transfer your care to a doctor or CNM.
What level of expertise do you expect them to have?
There are quite a few ways to consider the experience of your provider, so ask yourself what will make you feel most comfortable.
- Are they board certified? Board-certified providers have completed a series of accredited medical training requirements to keep up with changing practices and offer the highest level of patient care.
- What sort of certifications or trainings have they completed beyond the requirements of medical school and specifically in terms of pregnancy care?
- What’s their overall experience with patients? You might consider questions such as, how many babies have you delivered, what is your C-section rate, do you perform vaginal births after C-section (VBAC), do you have experience with high-risk pregnancies?
What philosophies or personality traits do you want them to share?
In terms of how you want your pregnancy and delivery to look and feel, consider where the provider stands on different birth plan accommodations, such as skin-to-skin contact, pain management, VBAC, breastfeeding, episiotomies, working with doulas, etc.
Also take some time to consider what sort of personality you prefer. Are they patient, empathetic and detail-oriented? Do you want someone who offers a lot of choices or makes straightforward recommendations? What about their communication style?
A provider may not check all your boxes, and that’s OK! Going into your search with an idea of your must-haves, negotiables and absolutely-nots can help you choose the provider that makes you feel the most empowered throughout your pregnancy and beyond.