You are pregnant. Now what?
The first thing you will have to do after the initial excitement is over is choose a care provider. In B.C. Canada we have many choices for care providers. We have Obstetricians, Family Doctors and Registered Midwives. All of these options are paid for with your Medical Service Plan (MSP).
Obstetricians (also called OBs) are medical doctors who specialize in the care of high-risk pregnant women. Most obstetricians are also gynecologists who diagnose and treat diseases of the female reproductive system and provide care for women when they are not pregnant. OB's do not look after newborns or support birthing people in the postpartum period. You will be referred back to your family doctor or a pediatrician for the care of your baby after you give birth.
Family Doctors are medical doctors who work in general medicine. Not all Family Doctors work with birthing people, so make sure the doctor you are with attends births. If not you will be referred to a midwife, another family doctor or OB. Many family doctors work in teams so they can balance their family practice with being on call. Your family doctor will look after you and your newborn in the postpartum period at their clinic.
Registered Midwives specialize in normal pregnancy, birth and newborns. Midwives attend both hospital births and home births. They come to your house in the initial postpartum phase to help with breastfeeding and check on the wellbeing of both the newborn and the birthing person. They continue to care for you and your baby for 6 weeks. Often midwifery appointments are longer and cover everything from diet, pregnancy health to which tests are available to you. Midwives are able to provide all of the same tests and drug options as physicians. Most midwives are also able to support natural ways to manage pain during labour.
Doulas are non-medical support people that are not covered by MSP. You will have to hire a doula privately. Doulas support families during the birth process and often into the postpartum period. There are both Birth Doulas and Postpartum Doulas. Here is an article that explains what doulas do.
What to think about when choosing a care provider.
Doctors and midwives share the same goal. They both want you and your baby to be healthy. Their approaches may be different. When you choose your medical care provider ask questions about his or her philosophy and approach. Do these match your preferences and values?
Some care providers work in big teams. Find out what their call schedule is like during your birthing time and who will attend your birth if they are not available.
Care providers have privileges at different hospitals. Some have privileges at more than one hospital. If you want to birth at a specific hospital make sure you are choosing a care provider who works at that hospital. Here is a link to an article about hospital options in the Lower Mainland.
Make sure you are happy with your care provider. Before you pick one ask your friends who they had and how they felt about their care. If you are unhappy with your care at any point in your pregnancy explore your options. You only give birth to your baby once - make sure you are happy with the person taking care of you.
Here are some links to care providers in the Lower Mainland.