Doctor versus midwife: Which is right for your pregnancy?


We talk a lot about the importance of choosing the right health care provider – one who will support you and the birth you envision. After all, deciding who will help you bring your baby into the world is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. The first step to finding your delivery team is deciding which camp you’ll choose: Doctor or midwife? Here’s what you need to know about each to ensure your choice is an informed and sound one.


  • Across the pond in Europe, midwives attend to the majority of births. However, in the U.S., only around 12 percent of pregnant women choose a midwifery. That number is on a steady incline since the late 1980s when it hovered just above 3 percent.
  • There are several different types of midwives, but a Certified Nurse Midwife and Certified Professional Midwife are the most common – both are highly trained medical professionals. A CNM receives training as a registered nurse in addition to the specialized program both groups must complete before becoming licensed.
  • Though midwives, by philosophy, encourage more natural deliveries with fewer interventions, they may administer medications such as pitocin and antibiotics – and they may even refer patients for a Caesarean, forceps or vacuum if the situation demands it.
  • Midwives are not surgically trained, so they cannot operate on you or your baby. Most midwifery groups partner with a doctor of obstetrics to step in for anything that falls outside the scope of their expertise.
  • Ninety-six percent of all midwives work in a hospital setting right alongside doctors and nurses. The other 4 percent have freestanding birthing centers or specialize in home births. Insurance will cover midwife care in a hospital setting – and some may even cover care given in a birthing center.


  • OBs attend to the majority of births in the U.S., just over 90 percent.
  • They complete rigorous training including four years of medical school followed by a four year residency program. Some may then opt for an additional three years of training in a specialized area.
  • OBs are trained surgeons and can perform C-sections, episiotomies and vacuum and forceps deliveries.
  • Due to the nature of their expertise, OBs are often associated with higher instances of interventions during labor and delivery. But just because a doctor can perform these functions, doesn’t mean he or she won’t be open to a different birth plan.

Choosing the man or woman who will help facilitate your baby’s birth is a huge moment in your pregnancy journey. A 1997 study published in the American Journal of Public Health offers a measure of comfort: No matter which provider women chose, both options achieved equally favorable outcomes for both mom and baby – making this decision truly one of personal preference.

Now your turn: What factors went into making your decision? Are you still weighing your options? Share your experience in the comments below!

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