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The biggest debate for your pregnancy, Doctors vs Midwives. I had the lucky chance of having both experiences in my first pregnancy. Our experience was certainly out of the ordinary but I wouldn’t change a thing!
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE
Medical Doctors (MD), General Practitioners (GP)
Not all doctors are equal when it comes to babies. Some GP’s/MD’s don’t actually have the ability or training to deliver babies and do prenatal care. GP’s/MD’s are typically who you consider your family doctor. You go to them for ailments, any health concerns you have on a day to day basis, broken bones, etc. If your doctor does not deliver babies or do prenatal care they will refer you to an OB-GYN, or you can seek out a Midwife.
Stands for Obstetrician and Gynecologist. You will oftentimes see an OB-GYN for any female organ-related questions or concerns. They also perform c-sections and treat diseases of the female organs.
When it comes to being seen by an OB-GYN you can expect short appointments which will consist of checking your progress and having tests ordered. There isn’t much time to get to know your practitioner because it is a fairly clinical environment. Often you will be told what tests, procedures and things you will be doing without much choice. Obviously they have your best interest at heart but if you are someone who prefers to have choices in all things you may want to look toward the Midwife option. Adversely, if you prefer to have a cut and dry experience where everything is decided for you, an OB-GYN is certainly the way to go.
Midwives have been around for thousands of years, and while many think that they are like witch doctors, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Midwives can do everything that an OB-GYN can do. The only thing they cannot do is perform a c-section. However, if you require a c-section on an emergency basis, the hospital will have one for you and your MW will still attend the birth. Sometimes if you have high-risk pregnancy markers you may be transferred from MW care to an OB-GYN but this is rare.
MW’s take a very holistic approach, and also are on the education side of the spectrum. Every choice to be made during your pregnancy is discussed with you so that you are educated and informed. As I said, they allow you to make choices, rather than make you do things you aren’t comfortable with or otherwise did not know you have a choice in the matter of.
WE STARTED WITH A DOCTOR
Usually, when you are in your early stages of pregnancy you get your healthcare team together and have made the choice of MD or MW. Our circumstances were different than expected. Due to moving while I was pregnant we had to find a new healthcare team.
Being in a new city (granted only 30 mins away from our old place) we were now in a new healthcare system. I would be delivering at a different hospital and would need a new team of professionals. It kind of felt like we were starting from scratch.
In Vancouver, we started with an MD. Things were great, we were happy with her, the appointments were quick and easy. We were really lucky in that our doctor was really close to both mine and Geoff’s work. Geoff was able to attend all of the appointments with me and we were able to squeeze them into our workday easily. It was perfect.
INITIATING THE SWITCH
When we made the decision to move we told her where we were moving to and she sent my chart notes to a clinic in our new town and gave me their phone number to book in. I called a week and a half later as it was during the Christmas holidays. My next appointment wouldn’t be until I was 31 weeks so in total I believe it was about 6 weeks between appointments instead of 4, but that’s all they had so I took it.
I went through all of my initial bloodwork and tests with the MD. The last test she had ordered was the first step of Gestational Diabetes testing. I say first test because if you fail it you have to do a follow-up, fasted test which takes a few hours. The result from my initial screening was to be sent to my new health care provider. When I hadn’t heard from either of them or so I thought I assumed our first appointment would be fine. Nope! When we went to that appointment, we were told that I was borderline gestational. Awesome. Granted, the day of my test, at work, I didn’t get a chance to eat, bad I know, but it happens. Who knew that would affect that test. Well, it did. I’ll get into that later.
MEETING THE MIDWIVES, BY ACCIDENT
Upon getting to the new clinic with my husband I noticed a few things, the clinic said it was naturopathic, that they had midwives and also had some MD’s. At this point, I was still under the assumption that we would be with an MD.
The clinic itself was beautiful. When we were brought back into the room for our appointment I noticed the comfy leather chairs, beautiful decor, candles, and a massage table instead of a doctors table. Odd. The woman in front of us introduced herself as our Midwife. She asked if we knew that we’d be coming to a midwife, my husband and I looked at each other and said no. She was surprised our doctor didn’t tell us. As were we. She told us all about how midwifery works, how their clinic works and about how we would have longer appointments and more open communication outside of appointments. This was really reassuring as we’re in this province with no family around and this is our first baby.
After her taking the time to get to know us and vice versa I was feeling so great about our new situation. She also told us that Doula services were available for free at her referral so naturally we signed up, I would be receiving a call from them soon. She checked our son’s heartbeat and with a huge smile on her face said he was very healthy, she then measured me and let us know we may be further along than we were dated by ultrasound!
TIME FOR MORE TESTING
Next came the curveball. My previous doctor gave me the requisition to get my Gestational Diabetes screening done. Remember from a bit earlier in my story? She said she would call me if there was anything wrong. I believed her as in the past she’d call me even to let me know she got test results.
In the 6 weeks between appointments, I did not hear from her so I assumed no news was good news. Our midwife went on to tell us that the screening came back positive, and not the positive one would like. She gave me a requisition to have the diagnostic testing done which includes fasting so I booked it online for the next morning and that was that. She also told me that my iron was very low, 14, when it should be over 50. I’ve always had low iron so this wasn’t a shock, pregnancy has just lowered it but she gave me some choices of how to boost it and I will apply them. Another thing that I was surprised our doctor didn’t alert us about.
After our diabetes shocker, our midwife personally went through schedules and timelines with us and booked all of our remaining appointments. I appreciated that she did it herself which was incredible because usually we normally would book one at a time with our doctor. We left the midwife so much more confident than any of our 15-minute drop-in’s we had in the past. This encounter lasted nearly an hour and we covered so much. No rush. Hubby and I went home with so much more knowledge and comfort knowing that we had someone who cared for us and who is invested in spending more time with us. All in all our first visit was wonderful.
Some other unique points about our midwives clinic were that they were a team of just under 20 midwives. This meant that there would always be someone available, 24/7 if you had any concerns. They also had a rotating midwife at the hospital we would be delivering at. Also, each week, all of the midwives would meet and update each other on their patients. This way everyone knew your circumstances and your case. I really loved the openness and availability that they offered.
Now with all of that said, please don’t take this as me bashing MD’s, I have a medical background, I believe in the system obviously. However, for our needs, I was seeing the light. The main difference is this. An MD can treat anything, a broken arm, pregnancy, disease and so on. A midwife helps with all things pregnancy and the mom. They can order the same tests, prescribe the same pregnancy-related drugs they just can’t help you out if you injure yourself. An appointment with a doctor will be very quick and to the point. If you have family around or are planning on taking prenatal classes then you’re good to go, or if you’ve had kids in the past and know the drill. If you are like us, no family around, lots of questions and need more attention that’s what a midwife is excellent for. Not to mention with all of the support we would be able to veto prenatal classes and have more one on one attention from our midwife and doula.
GETTING CLOSER TO DELIVERY
As our appointments continued with our midwife we became so much more comfortable. I loved how it felt like we were talking to a friend. She was invested in us and was so easy to talk to. My husband and I never felt rushed and he even told me he felt much more comfortable with the midwives.
When it came to delivery, our initial midwife was actually on vacation. The midwife who delivered Peyton was incredible. She was actually the first midwife in BC who had come over from Ireland. It was like having a loved one coach you through birth. She was so warm and kind, I couldn’t say enough good about Rose-Marie. Along with our doula, and having a natural birth, I am very happy that our birth plan made the change from an MD to the midwives.
LEAVING THE MIDWIFE TEAM
After birth, a midwife came to our home to check in with us. It was actually the Midwife who was at the hospital when I initially went in with contractions. She was not the one to deliver though as the shifts had changed. The midwives took great care of myself and Peyton for the next six weeks after delivery. They helped us through his weight gain issues. Even though we felt defeated I know they were doing their job and had his health obviously at the forefront.
When I had my final discharge appointment, I honestly felt sad. I would no longer be coming back to this clinic. To this safe place and people, we got to know so well. Unlike doctors, you will never see your midwife again once those six weeks post-delivery. Like I said before, they are just for pregnancy and postnatal. I wish that in a way they did pediatrics in some sort of form. Who knows, maybe in the future.
Our story of moving from doctor to midwife, while unique, isn’t a one-off. Many people do make the switch. Especially if you are a low-risk pregnancy, or are someone who would like a more personal connection. Now, not all provinces or states have midwives. Frankly I think that it’s sad. We were in a great situation, there are so many available in BC. Now that we are in Nova Scotia, I have done some research. I have come to find out that there are less than a dozen in the whole province. So who knows that our eventual baby #2’s care will be.
With all that said, I will be searching for an available midwife before we start trying for our next baby because I would love to have the same experience. Who know’s maybe next time will be a home/water birth! At this point, I wouldn’t rule that out, but that’s another story for another day.
I hope that in whatever choice you make you are thoroughly pleased. Stay tuned to hear about the doula!