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How to Choose The Right Prenatal Care Provider and Birthing Location

When a woman becomes pregnant, she is suddenly faced with a whole world of choices to be made. Choosing which exercise program to use during the pregnancy, making changes in her diet, and whether or not she wishes to go through natural childbirth are some of these choices. Two major decisions that must be made early in the pregnancy are who will provide prenatal care for mother and baby and where will the baby be born. Often, but not always, the choice of who provides care will take care of the choice of where.

Prenatal Care Providers:

OB/GYN:
OB/GYNs are doctors who have specialized extensively in caring for pregnant women and all aspects of the female reproductive system. This professional actually has two specialties; obstetrics, caring for a pregnant women, and gynecology, caring for the female reproductive system. These doctors have the training and experience needed to deal with almost any complication that may arise during a pregnancy in the best and safest manner for both mother and child. Most OB/GYNs deliver in a hospital setting exclusively.

Family Practitioner:
A family practitioner is the type of doctor people see routinely for any medical treatment they may need. These doctors are not highly specialized in any one area of medicine, but they do have training in taking care of the family as a whole. A family practitioner had to take training and practical experience in childbirth in order to receive his credentials, and should be quite capable of handling a normal, low risk pregnancy. Most family practitioners prefer to deliver in a hospital setting as a precaution against possible complications.

Midwives:
Midwives are healthcare professionals who have trained extensively in the birthing process. Nurse/midwives also have a nursing degree and are able to perform some medical procedures should the need arise. In the case of complications, a nurse/midwife can get instructions from a doctor and carry out his instructions.

General midwives have no medical training except that associated with labor and delivery of a child. They are educated in all aspects of childbirth and what complications to look for that could signal the need to have medical intervention. Midwives generally only care for low risk pregnancies. They do offer the most flexibility in birthing location, however. A midwife will normally deliver in a birthing center, a hospital, or even at home.

Birthing Locations:

Hospitals:
In most industrialized nations of the world today, the predominant location for birthing babies is in a hospital. Most doctors will only deliver in a hospital environment in order to have the equipment they need at hand should complications arise. A hospital setting offers the best chance of saving mother and baby should something go wrong during the pregnancy or delivery. It is recommended that all high risk pregnancies be handled in a hospital environment.

Birthing Centers:
In recent years, alternative birthing centers have become very popular. Birthing centers offer a much more homelike environment for a mother to give birth in while still offering the possibility of medical intervention if necessary. Most birthing centers are built inside hospitals where access to modern equipment and medically trained professionals is instantaneous if complications arise. Midwives and some OB/GYNs will perform deliveries in these birthing centers. A few free standing birthing centers have been opened that are operated exclusively by midwives. They generally only handle low risk pregnancies.

At Home:
Women have been giving birth at home since the dawn of time. This is still the place of choice for some women who prefer to be in familiar surroundings and have their family present during the birthing process. Most doctors will not deliver at home, so midwives are the providers of choice for home delivery. If a woman chooses home delivery, she should be a low risk pregnancy, and willing to consider being transported to a hospital if complications arise that the midwife can not handle.

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