Prenatal Health Care Practitioners

Throughout your pregnancy, it is extremely important that you receive regular prenatal care. Good prenatal care will help to ensure that you and your baby remain healthy and happy throughout these nine months of pregnancy. But choosing a prenatal care practitioner can often be a confusing and frustrating process. There are so many different types of prenatal health care providers, each offering different types of services. But there is no need to panic! Here is some information on the basic services provided by different types of prenatal care practitioners.

Before Choosing a Prenatal Care Practitioner
Before you can choose a prenatal care practitioner, you need to assess the needs of you and your baby. Consider what type of pregnancy, birth, and delivery you would like to have. If you are interested in natural or home childbirth, you may like to find a practitioner who specializes in these types of deliveries. If you would like to give birth in a hospital, you may want to find a prenatal care provider who works out of one. And if you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, you may require a practitioner who has special expertise in the area of obstetrics and prenatal health. By assessing your needs before choosing your care provider, you may be able to save yourself a lot of time and hassle in the long run.

Types of Prenatal Care Practitioners

There are three main types of prenatal care practitioners. All have completed some type of training in the field of prenatal care, labor, and delivery.

Family Physicians (FPs)
Most of us are already familiar with family physicians. Family physicians are primary health care providers who treat people of all ages. They address general health concerns and can provide you with diagnoses, treatment, and preventative care options. Most family physicians have completed three years of residency training in family medicine, and are trained to deal with the psychological and physical aspects of health.

Many family physicians also have some training in obstetrics and gynecology. These types of family physicians will be able to provide care for you and your baby throughout pregnancy, including monitoring of fetal development. Family physicians are also trained in labor and delivery, and can help guide you through a safe and healthy delivery in a hospital.

Why Choose a Family Physician?
Family physicians are often an excellent choice for prenatal health. They are well versed in obstetric and gynecological health, and will be able to offer you solid advice during pregnancy. Many pregnant women choose to see a family physician because they can provide one-on-one, long-term care throughout pregnancy. Additionally, family physicians can treat various health concerns in one visit, reducing the number of appointments you have to make.

Many women also find that they can form close and long-lasting bonds with their family physician. However, family physicians may not have had as much training as other types of prenatal care practitioners. This can make it difficult to for them to treat women with high risk or complicated pregnancies.

Obstetrician/Gynecologists (OB/GYNs)
Obstetrician/Gynecologists are professionally trained in the areas of female reproductive health, pregnancy, labor, and postpartum care. They have completed years of specialized study in obstetrics and gynecology. OB/GYNs have the expertise to diagnose and treat gynecological disorders as well as provide you with proper health care throughout pregnancy. OB/GYNs deal with pregnancy, labor, and birth on a daily basis, and are prepared to deal with both routine and complicated births.

Why Choose an Obstetrician Gynecologist?
Many women decide to see an obstetrician/gynecologist during pregnancy simply because of the expertise and knowledge that these practitioners have. Because they are so well-trained in pregnancy and birth, they can often deal with any complications that may arise. OB/GYNs typically work out of a hospital setting, which provides many pregnant women with some much-needed security, particularly during labor.

Obstetrician/Gynecologists are not without their drawbacks though. These practitioners tend to work in groups, which means that you may not see the same doctor every time you head in for an appointment. Most OB/GYNs are male and may not be able to see pregnancy from a woman's perspective. They also tend to follow pregnancy and delivery by the book, which means you may not get much of a say in how your pregnancy progresses.

Midwives are becoming more and more popular again among pregnant women. Midwives are professionally trained in the areas of pregnancy, labor, and the post-partum period. The role of a midwife is to follow your pregnancy from the time of conception right up until and into the weeks following your baby's birth, providing emotional and physical care along the way. Midwives belong to a regulated professional body, and many are already trained as registered nurses. Some operate out of hospitals, while others operate out of family birthing centers.

Why Choose a Midwife?
Midwives are often an excellent choice for women who want to have a little more control over their pregnancies. Midwives believe in the importance of having a woman play an active role in her pregnancy. They can help you to decide what type of birth and delivery you would like to have and will do their best to ensure that this happens. Midwives often provide more personalized care, and may conduct appointments in the comfort of your own home. However, in the case of certain pregnancy complications, a different type of practioner or facility may be recommended.

Although they cannot provide you with type of prenatal health care, doulas are trained in assisting with labor and delivery. They provide emotional and physical support throughout labor, teaching you ways to deal with labor pains naturally and effectively. Doulas understand all aspects of birth, and are trained to help facilitate communication between you and your partner during this special time.

A doula will meet with you prior to birth and help you set up a birth plan for labor and delivery. She will also help to ease you into parenthood after birth, providing you with tips on breastfeeding and other important aspects of baby care.

Why Choose a Doula?
A doula can be a wonderful caregiver during the labor and delivery process. Doulas provide emotional support and are focused on providing you with the best labor experience possible. Many women choose doulas in order to help them through natural childbirth, waterbirths, or homebirths. Doulas are not trained to provide care for high risk pregnancies, though.

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