Select Your Health Provider

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Select Your Health Provider

Prepare for Labor and Delivery

Congratulations to your new journey! The most critical decision you will make regarding your pregnancy is choosing the person who will help navigate you and your unborn child to a safe and happy destination.

There are five types of health care professionals who are trained to take care of pregnant women: obstetrician-gynecologists, maternal-fetal medicine specialists, family practice physicians, certified nurse-midwives and direct-entry midwives. These professionals are trained to provide prenatal care and to perform deliveries. However, the level of training for each is quite different.

A woman in pink shirt talking to a doctor.

The Experience of Pregnancy Versus the Outcome of Pregnancy

Ideally, you want to have the best of both worlds: a great pregnancy and delivery experience along with a great outcome. Medical schools and o-gyn residency training provide physicians with the skillset to give you a great outcome but it is probably your healthcare provider’s personality and values that will offer you a great experience as well.

A doctor is sitting down and using his laptop.


  • 4 years of college
  • 4 years of medical school
  • 4 years of residency training that includes surgery and the management of high and “low” risk training
  • Most hospitals require board certification status of ob-gyn physicians

Family Practice Physicians

  • 4 years of college
  • 4 years of medical school
  • 3 years of residency training that includes the management of pediatric patient and low risk obstetrics. Some family practice physicians can perform C/Sections (which requires additional training) but most don’t
  • They usually don’t manage high risk pregnancies

Certified Nurse-Midwives

  • 4 years of college, usually a BSN in nursing
  • 2 or 3 years in a master’s level midwifery program
  • 3 or 4 years in a doctorate nursing midwifery program
  • Provides “low-risk” prenatal care, vaginal deliveries and postpartum care including family planning services
  • Some states require midwives to have a practice or collaborative agreement with physicians, other states do not. Please see the Appendix for further information
  • If you select a midwife to manage your pregnancy, ask her for the name of her back-up physician and emergency contingency plan in the event of an unexpected emergency during your labor or delivery


  • Receives special training through programs
  • Does not perform deliveries but 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.”
  • Usually works with midwives but can also work with physicians to enhance the experience of the birth experience

Making the Selection

The best way to find the right provider is to get word-of-mouth referrals from either friends, family members or your primary care professional. If this is your first pregnancy and you are age 35 or older, make certain that your healthcare provider is well-versed in the new noninvasive prenatal genetic tests that can screen for birth defects as early as 10 weeks. Also make sure that your provider is respectful regarding your culture and religious beliefs.