What Does an OB/GYN Do?
Let’s start with the basics - what is an OB/GYN doctor and what do they do? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) describes OB/GYNs as “doctors who have special training and education in women’s health care.” Some OB/GYNs specialize in obstetrics – pregnant people and babies – some specialize in reproductive health, and some are specialized in both fields. OB/GYNs or pregnancy doctors support people across the wide spectrum of what is considered ‘low-risk pregnancy’ and offer highly specialized medical care to those who experience higher risks or anomalies during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
Typically, OB/GYNs work as part of a group or clinic and provide prenatal care for the whole nine-ish months of pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum. If you choose an OB/GYN as your care provider, you will plan to birth your baby in a hospital, or maybe a birthing center, as OB/GYNs do not typically support home births.
What to Look For When Choosing an OB/GYN
Before you get five hours deep into Reddit threads and comments on your local parenting groups about what to look for when choosing a gynecologist, it can be useful to think about your own expectations for birth support and how your life experiences or identity might shape them. It might be important to you to seek care from a provider that identifies in some of the same ways as you do. Maybe you’re drawn to a hospital or birth center and focus your search on care providers that serve those places. Depending on your birth preferences, having a direct conversation with a potential OB about things like interventions, abortion, anti-fat bias, and their c-birth-to-vaginal birth ratio can be illuminating. Oh – and don’t forget to check their accreditation and that they are in good standing with their licensing board.
Other Types of Prenatal Care Providers
In a world of diminishing choices, the good news is that you have a choice in finding the right pregnancy care provider. Traditional and licensed midwives are highly trained in supporting low-risk, physiological birth. They can support birthing people at home or in the hospital; except for performing a c-section, they can do almost everything an OB/GYN can. Midwifery care is highly regulated in North America, and midwives practice under the scope of practice as defined by the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
If you or your baby experience medical complications during pregnancy, your OB/GYN may enlist support or transfer your care to a perinatologist. Think of a perinatologist as a super-specialized pregnancy doctor or OB/GYN. Perinatologists work with high-risk pregnancies and support people through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. If you require the care of a perinatologist, your OB/GYN or midwife will be able to recommend and refer you to one.
Doulas – also known as birth-workers or birth keepers – are highly trained, unlicensed professionals who provide continuous care and support to pregnant and postpartum people. They are not medical professionals but integral to a larger care team, working alongside midwives, OB/GYNs, perinatologists, and sometimes on their own. Doulas practice from a client-centered, informed-choice model, supporting people through the full spectrum of reproductive health.
The power of choice.
We know there are a lot of choices to make when you’re thinking, trying or pregnant. One choice that we want to make simple is what kind of prenatal multivitamin to take to support pregnancy. Did you know medical specialists like doctors and OB/GYNs are women’s greatest influence in the decision to take a prenatal prior to conception? 63% of our customers said that their doctor or OB/GYN influenced their decision to start a prenatal before pregnancy. BTW: Essential Prenatal Multivitamin is an OB/GYN Recommended Formula† that includes 12 key nutrients for before and during pregnancy.*
†Based on the Ritual formulation reviewed by 150 OB/GYNs.
Clearly setting your expectations and honoring your wishes and desires around pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, will lead you to a care provider that’s similarly aligned. And even if you make a choice and that choice has to change, remember that regardless of your care provider’s designation, what matters most is that you feel safe, supported, and affirmed.