GP, OB or Midwife? Oh My!

Choosing a Care Provider for Pregnancy and Birth
Choosing a Care Provider for Pregnancy and Birth

Congratulations, you just found out you are pregnant!  You must have a million questions, and one of them probably is: just what are my options for medical care during pregnancy?  Choosing a care provider that you feel comfortable with and trust is one of the biggest decisions you can make for you and your baby.  Let’s quickly look at the three main types available in BC; General Practice, Midwifery, and Obstetrician led care:

The first person to know about your pregnancy (other than your spouse) is likely to be your Family Doctor, also known as a GP (General Practitioner or General Practice).  Not all GP Doctors are trained in supporting pregnant women or “delivering” babies, so if your GP is not, they will refer you to one who is when you announce your pregnancy.  These GP’s are specially trained and very knowledgeable, but appointments are typically short and to the point.  Be sure to have a list of questions if you are wanting more information on what to expect. Physicians generally offer informed consent. Most GP’s work in a shared practice (see more information below).  While GP’s work in hospitals and usually accompany patients should they need surgery, they are unable to perform surgeries like cesarean sections.

Midwifery care is ideal for women with low risk pregnancies who are looking for a care provider that specializes in pregnancy as a normal, natural life event.  They often spend 45 minutes to an hour at each prenatal appointment; answering questions and helping you understand your options. They specialize in informed choice decision making. Midwives attend home births, as well as hospital births.  They do not perform caesareans or vacuum assisted births.  In the Okanagan the midwives usually have you meet all of the team of midwives that could be there for the birth. Should a woman discover that she is having twins or no longer low risk for some reason, then the care will be shared with an OB. You do not need a referral from your GP to see a Midwife, so if you live in BC and are interested in midwifery care, it is best to contact any local midwives as soon as possible; they book up fast!  Midwifery care is covered under MSP just like physician care, so there is no cost.

Obstetricians (OB/GYN) are specialists and support women with high-risk pregnancies or who develop complications during pregnancy.  If you are seeing a Midwife or GP and they have a concern regarding your care, you may be referred to an OB.  They will either work with your Primary Care Provider (Midwife or GP), or take over your care for the remainder of the pregnancy.  Sometimes you are referred to an OB while you are in labour.  While your Primary Care Provider will stay with you whenever possible, the OB may become the person “in charge” of your care.  Just like GP’s, appointments are typically short (though every OB is different, and some spend more time!) and address any issues or concerns the OB may have.  If you have questions or things you want to discuss, be sure to bring a list.  OB’s are surgeons that are able to perform cesarean sections and support deliveries in hospital.

Each of these care providers may also work individually (solo practice) or in a partner or group
with other care providers, so it is important to know which kind of practice your care provider
has.  This can affect the type of care received.  The benefit of a solo practice is that unless there
is an emergency, your care provider will be the one providing care for your birth.  Group practice
allows each care provider to take on more clients as they have built in back up.  However, this also means
that the chances of not having your chosen care provider at your birth go up.

I feel I need to say this: Doulas do not provide medical support.  But, this means that the
help of a doula is a great compliment to all of these types of care!  So, whichever option feels right to you, or that you need, you can know that The Birth Nerd Kelowna supports all types of births with any type of provider.

What kind of support did you look for during pregnancy and birth?  What did you like about it?  What didn’t you like?