As a parent to be, one of the first decisions you make will be choosing what type of birth and birthing experience you want. Choosing a provider to assist in the delivery of your baby is an intensely personal and sometimes confusing decision. We all want the safest and most intimate delivery experience. We all want to feel in control of our bodies and choices, and we need to be able to trust the advice and choices of our providers, as we will need to rely on them at a time when we may not be able to think clearly.
Let’s break down the basics…. What do the letters after their names really mean?
- OB/GYN – A medical/surgical doctor trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the female reproductive system, in a pregnant and non-pregnant state. The training required to practice OB/GYN medicine is extensive. In the U.S. a 4 year residency after medical school is required. To be recognized as a board-certified subspecialist by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology or the American Osteopathic Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a practitioner must have completed an ACGME or AOA-accredited residency and obtained a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) which requires an additional standardized examination.These doctors are educated and prepared to handle all aspects of obstetrics, from the most uncomplicated natural birth, to the most unexpected, complicated and serious deliveries.
- CNM – Certified Nurse Midwife –. The word midwife means ‘with women’ and often women want the hands on, natural approach a midwife provides to a low risk, expectant mother. A CNM has a master’s degree with specialized education in nursing and midwifery. A CNM can prescribe medications, treatments and medical devices and provide medical care to women from puberty through menopause, including care for their newborn, antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and nonsurgical gynecological care. A CNM works closely and in collaboration with an OB/GYN for patients who develop complications, or who have a complicated medical history.
- Direct entry midwife – LM (Licensed midwife) or CPM (certified professional midwives) – These midwives typically attend home births or deliver in free standing birthing centers. A degree is not required but completion of a midwifery program and successfully passing a certification or licensure exam is required. They are independent practitioners who provide autonomous maternity care, prenatal, birth and postpartum. An ECP – Emergency Care Plan is developed and both the midwife and the parent have a copy by 28 weeks, should an unexpected complication develop. Typically patients are referred to the local hospital ER or OB-ECC, who is expecting them should issues develop.