Choosing a Healthcare Provider
Even if you have a picture-perfect pregnancy, you will be seeing a lot of your healthcare provider over the next nine months. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women see their providers:
Every four weeks through the first 28 weeks of pregnancy (about seven months)
Once every two to three weeks between 29 and 36 weeks
Every week after 36 weeks
If you have any conditions that put you in a high-risk category, such as diabetes or a history of preterm labor, your provider may want to see you more frequently to monitor your progress.
Who should guide you on this odyssey? If you currently see a gynecologist or family practice doctor who also has an obstetric practice, he or she may be a good choice. If you don't have that choice, or would like to explore your options, consider the following health care professionals.
Ob-gyn: An obstetrician and gynecologist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who has received specialized training in women's health and reproductive medicine.
Perinatologist: If you have a chronic health condition, you may see a perinatologist — an ob-gyn who specializes in overseeing high-risk pregnancies.
Midwife: There are certified nurse-midwives licensed to practice in all fifty states. They provide patient-focused care throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Nurse practitioner: A nurse practitioner (N.P.) is a registered nurse (R.N.) with advanced medical education and training (at minimum, a master's degree).
Combined practice: Some obstetric practices blend midwives, N.P.s, and M.D.s, with the choice (or sometimes the requirement) of seeing one or more throughout your pregnancy.
A doula is a pregnancy and birth support person, who cannot replace any of the above professionals, but who can provide emotional assistance to both the mom-to-be and her family. Doulas can assist you at any point in pregnancy, from preconception to postpartum. Because doulas tend to work with a variety of physicians and midwives in many different settings, they may also be helpful in providing information on places and providers as you plan your birth experience.
Whether it's your first or your fifth, this pregnancy is a one-time-only performance. You deserve the best support in seeing it through. Talk to the experts and get referrals. Ask for referrals from the following.
State or county medical board
Patient services department of nearby hospitals and/or birthing centers
Labor and delivery programs of nearby hospitals and/or birthing centers
Be aware that not everyone looks for the same thing in a healthcare provider; what another woman loves, you may cringe at.