Prenatal Care - Choosing Your Prenatal Care Practitioner

Choosing the right health care practitioner is an integral part of proper prenatal care. That means that you need to look for a practitioner that is compatible with your needs and beliefs. Here is some information on what factors to consider when choosing a prenatal care provider.

How to Choose Your Prenatal Care Practitioner

Before choosing a health care practitioner for your pregnancy, it is essential to first assess the needs of both you and your developing baby. Consider what type of birth experience you would like: for example, whether you prefer a home birth, a water birth, a natural birth or a hospital birth. Also, remember that a high risk pregnancy as well as your overall pregnancy health should inform what type of prenatal care practitioner you choose.

Once you have considered these needs, asking for a referral from your doctor, family and friends is a good step to finding the right prenatal care practitioner for you. Also, many hospitals provide a list of current practitioners. Location can also be an important factor to consider, as it can help to reduce travel time and minimize stress.

Types of Prenatal Care Practitioners

The following is an overview of the main types of prenatal care practitioners:

  • family physician. Family physicians (FPs) undergo a three year residency in family medicine and as such have both physical and psychological care training. Most family physicians also have some obstetrician gynaecoligist training, including fetal development care experience and labor training. However, a family physician may not be recommended if you have a high-risk pregnancy due to certain limitations in their training.
  • obstetrician gynaecologist. Ob-gyns are trained in female reproductive health, pregnancy, labour as well as in postpartum care. They are experienced in pregnancy care and birth and usually deliver babies in a hospital setting. However, because obstetrician gynaecologists work as part of a team, you will receive prenatal care from different ob-gyns. Also, most ob-gyns are male, which may be a comfort issue for you.
  • midwife. Midwives are qualified to provide prenatal and postpartum care as well as to perform labor and delivery. These prenatal care practitioners provide both physical and emotional support and usually work out of hospital or family birthing centres. They provide more personalize prenatal care; for example, midwives can conduct prenatal care appointments at your home. However, a midwife may not be recommended in cases of high risk pregnancies or if you are experiencing pregnancy complications.
  • doula. A doula is trained in both labor and delivery but does not provide prenatal care. Doulas provide physical and emotional support during labor and can teach you natural ways to minimize labor pains as well as how to foster communication with you partner during labor. In addition, a doula can provide tips on postpartum care, including breastfeeding and baby care. Doulas are recommended for natural, water or homebirths but are not qualified for high risk pregnancies.