A midwife is an expert in normal birth. They provide 1-on-1 care for you (a thing called ‘continuity of care’). Educated to care for women during pregnancy, birth, and after birth, they are knowledgable about the physiological birth process. Midwives can act as ‘care coordinator’ (I experienced care like this) where they meet with you, discuss your needs, talk about how you’re going, check your baby’s position, and just generally love you! Then, if need be, they will write medical referrals for blood tests etc. Midwives are registered to provide care to a woman and her baby in a normal pregnancy or one that includes complications (working together with doctors and other health care providers). To access this type of care, search for a private midwife in your area or a midwifery group practice. Note: In hospital, the nurses are called midwives however they do not offer this type of care because the system is fragmented. To access this type of holistic care you do need to seek an alternative path (i.e. get a private midwife or access a midwifery group practice). Midwives work in all areas in Australia including most rural and remote areas.
An obstetrician is a medical doctor who has been educated in obstetric care, including surgery like caesarean sections, after they finish a medical degree. Obstetricians are specialists in caring for women with complicated pregnancies or special circumstances. Obstetricians can work in private practice and can work in public and private hospitals. Most obstetricians are located in large regional centres or cities.
A general practitioner
Some general practitioners (or GPs) have completed additional qualifications in obstetrics or maternity care, while others have not. GPs who haven’t completed additional qualifications in obstetrics or maternity care are still able to care for women during pregnancy (pre) and after birth (post). Most GPs don’t provide birth care (the actual birth), except in some rural areas where they may work in rural hospitals. A GP who provides birth care is usually called a GP obstetrician.
A solo experience
Some women choose to birth without the presence of a qualified medical provider. This is called a free birth or unassisted birth. This type of experience can be extremely empowering for some women. I’ve called this option ‘solo’ though women choosing this option may still have their partner, doula or a friend with them.
A doula is a trained birth support person who provides emotional support to women during their pregnancy, labour and birth. A doula does not provide medical maternity care. In all models of care you can have a doula support you in your pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. Research has been completed that shows clearly the benefits of having a doula present during the birth process. Wink: I didn’t need a doula per say, because I had my private midwife present. I believe true midwives are those who can provide medical assistance and emotional assistance. In essence, my midwife was also my doula.