What Is the Difference Between a Midwife and an OB-GYN?

If you’re planning on getting pregnant or are currently pregnant, chances are you will need to find a care provider. But what’s the difference between a midwife and an OB-GYN? Keep reading.

When choosing your postpartum care provider, you must find someone who validates your concerns, answers your questions, and helps you feel heard and supported.

For some new or expecting mothers, an OB-GYN fills that role. For others, a midwife is their healthcare provider of choice. When choosing between the two, it’s essential to know the differences between them and which type of provider would be the best fit for you and your journey to motherhood.

pregnant mom at her ob gyn office in a pink shirt

What is the difference between an OB-GYN and a Midwife? 

A closer look at OB-GYNs

Although they can both deliver babies, an Obstetrician-gynecologist is a medical doctor specializing in women’s health. They are medical professionals who attended medical school, completed a residency, and in many cases, are board certified, meaning they have other professional experience.

They are very well experienced and can perform C-sections if a mother needs one.  

OB/GYN also has experience with high-risk pregnancies. They know the best route to take if a mother is experiencing any health complications related to the pregnancy.

They can prescribe medication and take extra measures to ensure the mother and baby are delivered safely. 

OB-GYNCertified Nurse Midwife
Education LevelMedical SchoolNursing Masters with Midwifery Specialty
Pregnancy Risk LevelHigh and low riskLow risk
Perform C-Section?YesNo
Birthing LocationHospitalHospital, birthing center, and home births
Provider AvailabilityMust reach via a receptionistTypically 24/7 by phone
Appointment Duration15-20 minutes1 hour or more
Accepts Insurance?YesVaries by state

A closer look at midwifery care

Midwives are also health care professionals who provide obstetric and gynecological services, annual exams, and prenatal care. They tend to care for low-risk pregnancies and home births.

Most midwives attend water births, home births, or at birthing centers. Some midwives even work in birthing centers within traditional hospitals. A midwife could not assist a mother who may need a C-section or is high risk.

A midwife is almost always available 24/7 for their patients; not only are they there during labor and delivery, but they also offer emotional support during the process.

They are hands-on and available and will assess any problem that may come their way unless it requires a visit to the emergency room. 

It’s important to note that there are different types of midwives:

  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)* º
  • Certified Midwife (CM)º
  • Certified Professional Midwife (CPM)

* Has RN licensure
º Attainment of knowledge, skills, and professional behaviors as identified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Core Competencies for Basic Midwifery Education (source)

pregnant mom talking to her midwife on the couch

What is better? A midwife or an OB-GYN?

While there is no direct answer to this question, there are a few things to consider when considering going the traditional route of an OB-GYN or midwife.

  1. Are you a high-risk or low-risk pregnancy? 
  2. Are you planning a natural birth or a C-section?
  3. Are you considering a home birth or delivering in a hospital?

Some other factors to consider when choosing between providers are:

  • Your in-office experience
  • Provider availability
  • Your birth experience
  • Cost of services

These are essential factors when deciding between a midwife or OB-GYN. 

Your in-office experience

Another critical factor is the difference in office visits between midwives and visiting your OB doctor. OB doctor visits are usually between 15-30 minutes; meanwhile, a midwife appointment may last about an hour, and you can sometimes schedule on weekends.

Provider availability

Often, you can contact a midwife via cellphone, depending on your needs and availability. To book or contact your OB/GYN, you must schedule and speak to the receptionist or medical assistant. 

Your birth experience

With a midwife, you control your decisions about how you would like your labor and delivery. You can make most of the rules, and they support your needs and access you on your terms.

With an OB/GYN, practices and protocols are limited based on the pregnancy.

Cost of each provider

The cost for a midwife varies by state. It’s essential to research and find someone you think will be the best fit for you and your family’s needs. Check with your health insurance to see what midwives (if any) are covered within your network.

OB-GYN majority take many different insurances and do not always need to pay out of pocket. 

pregnant mom on tele-health appointment with her ob-gyn

Final thoughts on choosing a midwife or OB-GYN

Ultimately, choosing which care provider you prefer is up to you. For those wanting more hands-on experience and who are considered low-risk, a midwife might be your best option. For those who are high-risk or prefer traditional medical care, an OB-GYN could be your preferred route.

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Cindy Portillo

Journalist

Cindy is a multimedia journalist passionate about writing on topics such as mental health and motherhood. Through her work, she hopes to bring awareness to many new mothers' difficulties. She is also a proud mom to a baby boy.

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