What's the Difference Between a Midwife and an OB/GYN?

Pregnant women must make a choice when it comes to who will help them deliver their baby. While many women turn to their OB/GYN for this kind of care, a rising number of women turn to a midwife for labor and delivery assistance. Knowing what a midwife is, the difference between a midwife and an OB/GYN, and how you can benefit from working with a midwife can help you decide whether or not a midwife is right for your needs.

What's the difference between a midwife and an OB/GYN?

The level of education and specialization is different. OB/GYNs are trained doctors who have gone to medical school and residency. Many midwives are nurses with a bachelor's degree who then go back to school for a master's degree to become a midwife.

In addition to the level of education, the approach that a midwife and an OB/GYN may take during a delivery is also different. Midwives are experts at helping women give vaginal deliveries. They cannot use surgical means to deliver a child, but some can assist in the room if a c-section is taking place.

OB/GYNs are allowed to use surgical means of delivery and may or may not prioritize vaginal delivery for the patient. Unlike midwives, some OB/GYNs will have strict clinical procedures, like a rule that all patients must be hooked up to a machine for all or a percentage of labor and delivery. Often OB/GYNs are busy at the hospital and will visit the patient a limited number of times while labor is taking place.

Midwives may not be bound by as many clinical rules. Compared to OB/GYNs, who may be busy with many patients at the hospital, midwives often focus on one patient and give comprehensive birth assistance.

Can a midwife prescribe pain medication?

Yes, a midwife can prescribe pain medication, but many midwives will encourage patients to use natural pain-management techniques first.

What are the benefits of using a midwife?

Typically, midwives will:

  • Offer individualized support to the mother during her labor and delivery. Midwives follow the direction of the mother during her labor and delivery, frequently offering the type of support needed (pain management, emotional support, mental stimulation, and so on) as it is requested.
  • Help their patients manage pain with birthing balls, showers, massage, and more. For women who wish to have a natural childbirth, childbirth may be more successful with an expert who can offer natural pain-management suggestions.
  • Help a woman deliver in the setting of her choice. While some midwives work only in hospitals, many midwives will help women deliver at home or in birthing centers.
  • Stay with the patient through the majority of the labor and delivery process. Midwives may stay through all or at least the majority of the labor-and-delivery process
  • Help a woman deliver in water, if desired. Midwives are trained to help patients deliver into water, either in a birthing tub at a hospital or at home.

In addition, for women who prioritize natural vaginal delivery, a midwife will seek all possible methods to support this particular vision.

Can midwives deliver babies for high-risk pregnancies?

This depends on the risk to the baby and the mother. Midwives are not able to remove a baby through surgical means, so many women facing high-risk pregnancies turn to OB/GYNs for labor and delivery. For more information about how a midwife can help you through the labor-and-delivery process, or to find out if your pregnancy is a good candidacy for a delivery with a midwife, contact a reputable midwife in your area. He or she can answer all your questions to help you make a decision.