What’s a birth plan?
Doctors, nurses, midwives, and doulas: What’s the difference?
- Obstetricians are doctors that specialize in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They have surgical training and can perform cesarean deliveries.1
- Certified nurse midwifes can perform many of the same health care services that doctors do like gynecological exams, writing prescriptions, and providing care and support during labor and delivery.2
- Doulas can provide physical, emotional, and educational support during and after birth.3
- Family practice doctors can also take care of pregnant women and deliver babies. They generally don’t do surgeries like cesareans.
Hospital, birth center, or home: Where to deliver your baby
- Hospital. A hospital may be the only choice for high-risk pregnancies. You’ll be close to doctors and nurses with the training and technology to intervene if necessary. Plus, you’ll generally have better access to pain relief if needed.
- Birth center. Birthing centers support the practice of midwifery.4 They generally offer fewer medical interventions, like inducing labor, among other things and can be a good option for low-risk births. Some birth centers are next to a hospital, but they are usually a separate health care facility. They can start emergency interventions and will help transfer the family to a hospital if needed.
- Home. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends hospitals or certified birthing centers as the potentially safest settings to give birth. However, delivering at home could be an option for you if you and the baby are in good health before delivery, you have a registered midwife in attendance, and are planning for a safe, quick trip to a hospital if the need arises.5
How to select a hospital
- What are the policies on visitors in the delivery room?
- How is the baby monitored during labor and delivery?
- What are the hospital’s rates of induction, episiotomy, epidural, or cesareans?
- Does the hospital have a neonatal intensive care unit?