When I was in training to become a certified Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher, we had quite a bit of training in childbirth education as well as women’s options during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. That’s right. Options.
Raise your hand if you didn’t know you had them [my own hand goes up]. I had started studying prenatal yoga, yoga for fertility, and postnatal yoga long before this training, but still had this “idea” of what “normal” care during pregnancy looked like. You go to the doctor, get your ultrasounds, take the tests, birth on your back, etc. - essentially what I’d seen in the movies. I didn’t understand why my teacher kept referring to “care providers,” because I truly only thought there were one type - doctors.
I learned that there are many different types of care providers who can support you during your journey towards and into motherhood based on your own personal philosophies, comfort levels and personal health. My mind was totally blown.
Knowing that you have choices during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum can help you find the support system that is right for YOU. The right midwife can be wonderful. The right doctor can be wonderful. Having a doula can be wonderful. The point is, you get to pick your birth team (in most cases), so it’s worth it to educate yourself on what feels best for you and your baby. Here are some common terms that I hope are helpful in alphabetical order:
Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): CNMs are licensed, independent health care providers licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The pathway includes becoming a nurse before advancing education into midwifery. CNMs are defined as primary care providers under federal law. CNMs attend births, provide reproductive care, and many provide primary care, too. Examples include annual exams, writing prescriptions, basic nutrition counseling, parenting education, patient education, and reproductive health visits. The majority of CNMs attend births in hospitals, but also attend to births at birthing centers and at home. adapted from NP Schools
Certified Professional Midwife (CPM): A CPM is a professional independent midwifery practitioner who has met the standards for certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). The CPM is the only midwifery credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital settings. Most CPMs own or work in private home or birth center based practices throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Providing continuous care for women throughout their childbearing cycle, CPMs generally carry a relatively low client load (averaging 3-6 births per month). adapted from NARM
Doula: A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible. Many doulas provide childbirth education during pregnancy to help educate on what to expect during labor. Birth doulas assist during [you guessed it] birth, guiding mothers based on their birth goals and values. Postpartum Doulas support families in the postpartum period, offering breastfeeding support, helping with newborn tasks (like diapering and swaddling), doing light housework, and more. adapted from DONA International
Labor & Delivery Nurse: A labor and delivery nurse assists an expectant mother to help her prepare for and to effectively move through the initial stages of labor. A L&D nurse’s work may include a variety of tasks, such as timing and coaching through contractions, tracking blood pressure, monitoring the baby’s heart rate, and in some cases administering medicine. It may be the nurse’s role to help the mother know when it’s time to transition from the initial stages of labor to active pushing. Nurses are also there to support the mother after birth. adapted from Best Master of Science in Nursing
Lactation Consultant (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant - IBCLC): An IBCLC is a healthcare professional who specializes in breastfeeding support. IBCLC’s can be found in and outside of hospital settings and can help women learn how to initiate breastfeeding, pump breastmilk, different breastfeeding positions for baby, increase milk supply and more.
Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB-GYN): An OB-GYN is a doctor that has expertise in female reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth. Some OB-GYNs offer a wide range of general health services similar to your primary care doctor. Others focus on the medical care of the female reproductive system. This type of doctor has studied obstetrics and gynecology. Obstetrics is the branch of medicine related to medical and surgical care before, during, and after a woman gives birth. Obstetrics focuses on caring for and maintaining a woman’s overall health during maternity. Gynecology is the branch of medicine that focuses on women’s bodies and their reproductive health. It includes the diagnosis, treatment, and care of women’s reproductive system. adapted from Healthline
How do you decide which care provider is right for you? In addition to knowing your care provider options, it might be helpful to know that there are two paradigms of care during pregnancy and you can decide (again, for the most part), which one feels best for you and your baby.
The Medical model of care during pregnancy focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating the complications that can occur during pregnancy, labor, and birth. Medical knowledge and intervention is necessary for women and babies with complications and/or risks.
The Midwifery model of care emphasizes the normal biological process of most pregnancies, labors, and birth. It focuses on honoring the rhythm of each individual woman’s labor. Midwives are trained to identify when there might be serious complications and medical expertise/intervention is sought when necessary.
I hope this helps you decide on a care provider; to know ways that you are supported during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum; and to feel knowledgeable moving forth in whichever decisions you make. Please note, I had it all (almost) - a midwife, doctor, lactation consultant, and doula and [for the most part] had great experiences with each. Do you have further questions? Was this helpful? Please let me know!
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