Difference Between a Midwife and a Doctor

We are so grateful to our partners at Premier Physicians Network for providing answers to all of our questions about midwives and OB/GYNs!

differences between midwife doctorDo you ever think about the days before we had hospitals and doctors like we do today? Have you ever thought about what it was like for women giving birth back then without the advances in medicine and technology we have in the 21st century? Now, we have options if we want to give birth with just an OB/GYN or if we want to have a midwife and give birth naturally in home-like settings at Atrium Medical Center. We have so many options, but you may be asking, “What’s the difference between a doctor and a midwife?” Premier Physician Network certified nurse midwife (CNM), Charissa Newton, teamed up with Premier Physician Network’s Dr. Renshaw to answer this question in detail for our readers.

Do OB/GYNs and Midwives Have the Same Amount of Education?

The first question that might come to mind is what types of education doctors and midwives have. Premier Health Physician Network’s Charissa Newton, CNM answered this:

“Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) begin their career in nursing. They start with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree that typically takes around 4 years to complete. Then, they must complete a midwifery program, obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing that may take about 2-3 years. After taking a national certification exam and becoming licensed in their state as an advanced practice nurse, they may begin to practice. Some CNMs may go on further to complete their Doctorate of Nursing Practice as well that may add an additional 1-2 years to their education.”

Dr. Renshaw from the Premier Physician Network shared this on the education that OB/GYN’s receive:

“At a minimum, OB/GYNs have a 4-year bachelors degree, 4 years of medical school, and then 4 years of residency, whereas CNMs have at least a 4-year BSN degree and then Masters-level education of at least 2 years, often with clinical experience of varying lengths.”

Midwives are most commonly referred to as CNMs, but here are some other acronyms you might see after a midwife’s name:

  • APRN – Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
  • MSN – Master of Science in Nursing
  • DNP – Doctorate of Nursing Practice

What Can a Midwife Offer that is Not Found with an OB/GYN Alone?

According to Premier Physician Network’s Charissa Newton, “Midwives are specialists in normal, low-risk pregnancies. While there are many similarities in care between midwives and OBs, midwives typically approach care in a family-centered way, taking time to support a partnership that promotes individualized care through all stages of life. The midwifery model of care supports active participation in your health care, encouraging informed decision-making within your family. Midwives believe in therapeutic touch and human presence and promote watchful waiting with less intervention during normal processes for low-risk pregnancies. During labor at Atrium Medical Center, your midwife will provide a lot of labor support in whatever way is needed at the time. Sometimes that may just be the quiet presence in the room, and sometimes that includes more hands on support with massage and positioning.

“OB/GYNs manage low-risk pregnancies, high-risk pregnancies and births, can perform cesarean sections (C-sections), can use forceps or vacuum, and repair 3rd- and 4th-degree lacerations. At Atrium Medical Center, our OB/GYNs also attend births in the Natural Beginnings Birth Center.”

What to Expect with a Midwife {Answered by Charissa Newton, CNM}

  • General Expectations

    • Certified and licensed health care provider that uses evidenced-based care
    • Provides care for women in all stages of life, including low-risk pregnancies and births
    • Focus on family-centered care
    • Labor support at a Premier Health hospital or birth center
    • Less intervention with more natural approach to labor and birth in low-risk pregnancies
    • Trained to assess health and well-being of mom and baby, detect abnormal findings, and appropriately collaborate with our OBs
    • Dr. Renshaw adds, “You can expect a midwife to provide all the routine prenatal care! Pain medication, like IV medication and epidural, are still also available, even if you deliver with a midwife or use things like hydrotherapy, massage, hypnotherapy etc. while at Atrium Medical Center. If complications arise, there is always an OB/GYN who serves as a collaborating physician if rapid interventions need to be made for either maternal or fetal reasons.”
  • Pain Medication Options

    • Both epidurals and IV pain medications during labor
    • Pain medications postpartum
  • What if Complications Arise?

    • Our collaborating physicians are OB/GYNs who are readily available to consult if complications arise during pregnancy, and we can work together to provide the optimal health care for mom and baby. OB/GYNs are also available at all Premier Health hospitals to attend any emergencies as needed.

Delivery Day {Answered by Charissa Newton, CNM}

    • Midwife’s Role

      • Continuously assess well-being of mom and baby
      • Provide as much labor support as needed, be present
      • Assist in birth of the baby in the most safe and comfortable place and position
      • Assist delivery of the placenta, assess and repair first or second-degree lacerations, monitor postpartum bleeding. Order medications as needed.
      • Provide support with breastfeeding
      • Dr. Renshaw adds, “If your care is with a midwife, they will be the ‘point guard’ on your delivery day. They are hands on in terms of presence but less inclined to provide intervention if both mom and baby are both well and the pregnancy is low-risk.”
    • OB/GYN’s Role

      • Continuously assess well-being of mom and baby
      • Assist with birth and delivery of placenta and repair lacerations
      • Order medications as needed
      • Available to respond as needed and to any emergencies
      • Serve as backup for medically complicated cases or in situations where interventions are warranted – expedited vaginal delivery, cesarean delivery, vacuum delivery, forcep delivery, or assistance with non-routine medical problems that may complicate a pregnancy
      • Dr. Renshaw adds, “The OB/GYN is available in case of emergency and in support of both the patient and midwife. OB/GYNs are present in the hospital, though you may or may not actually see us! Midwives are skilled at recognizing what is normal and in their scope of practice and at asking for backup when needed.”

To set up an appointment at Premier Physician Network, Center for Women’s Health & Wellness (7450 Mason Montgomery Road, Suite 201, Mason, OH), call (513) 770-2797. 

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