Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who is Right for You: Doctor or Midwife?

Often in more progressive areas, you will see bumper stickers and other campaigns asking you to promote the midwifery industry in the local area by choosing a midwife over a doctor. While you may not even know the difference, some people take great pride in promoting midwives. When you find yourself pregnant, however, you will need to determine if you think that a midwife is the right choice for your prenatal needs or if a doctor will fit better for you.

First know that almost all midwives are women. It is not a profession for men. When you look at doctors, an emerging minority of them are women, and you should be able to find either a male or female doctor in your area. Midwifery is based on an ancient form of medical practice in which women cared for each other during times of gynecologic and obstetrical needs. Traditional midwives knew about folk remedies for PMS and any problem to the female reproductive system. These women also worked with pregnant women and delivered their babies. In many rural areas, midwives were the only option until not too long ago.

These age-old traditions for midwives are part of what makes them different from the medical establishment. Many people use the term traditional doctor to differentiate between medical doctors (MDs) and midwives, but this distinction is false. Midwives are the traditional medical providers, and doctors are pretty new to the scene historically speaking.

If you want to see a midwife, the biggest advantage that you will have is a belief that patients should get all of the attention they need and even want. Instead of rushing through an appointment every 15 minutes, most midwives prefer to see patients in 30-minute intervals. For first-time prenatal visits and other important visits, midwives may even block out an hour. They are available to answer every question, usually without the clipboard attached and while actually looking at the patient instead of making notes. Midwifery is based on the idea of patient-provider healthcare, so they value what the patient believes more than most doctors.

With that said, midwives are not for everyone. Hurry up and go kinds of women probably will not do well with midwives because they will want to speed along their visits. Midwives are very thorough, but it can be frustrating to women who have busy schedules.

Another key difference is in the amount of medical intervention doctors and midwives permit. Doctors often encourage women to have cesarean sections and to use Pitocin and other labor-inducing drugs while midwives tend to warn their patients to stay away from these medications. Midwives tend to do c-sections only in the most dire of circumstances when there is no other way to get the baby out. Again, whether that works for or against you as an expectant mom depends on your personality and feelings toward medication during labor and delivery.

Some women are perfectly willing to have c-sections as soon as the doctor says it may be necessary while other women are not so comfortable with the idea. Some women want as little pain as possible during childbirth while others derive a primitive form of power from the pains of labor. You know yourself best, and it is important to know where you stand before you commit to either a doctor or a midwife.

Another more controversial issue with midwives is that some of them are willing to attend home births, underwater births, and other types of birthing that the formal medical establishment shuns. Again, your personality will determine whether or not you want to have something like this done, but you may want to consider it. Some states have made these births illegal, but you may find a midwife willing to attend anyway because it is considered such as strongly politically charged decision.

Knowing whether you should seek out the services of a doctor or midwife is one only you can make. Take some time to meet with the people you want to consider for your doctors before you make a final decision. Know that you are not committed to the first person you see and be willing to change if you do not find the right person the first time around.

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