Obstetrical care is the most common form of prenatal care chosen by women. But how do you know if it’s right for you?
What is an Obstetrician?
An obstetrician is a doctor who specializes in caring for pregnancies, as well as labor and the postpartum period. Many obstetricians have also received training in gynecology, which deals with the health of the female reproductive system. Those doctors who are trained in both fields are referred to as obstetrician/gynecologists or OB/GYN. Obstetricians may also study to become perinatologists who specialize in high-risk pregnancies, testing for high-risks and fetal therapy. If you have a history of previous pregnancy complications, are having a multiple pregnancy or have a chronic medical condition, you should visit a perinatologist.
Lastly, an obstetrician may have further specialized in a specific area of female reproductive health such as gynecological cancer, infertility, gynecological surgery or chronic gynecological medical conditions.
Obstetricians have the most professional training when it comes to pregnancies. They are well versed in all aspects of pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum care. In fact, if you are considered to be having a high-risk pregnancy, you may have no choice but to be followed by an obstetrician.
Obstetricians are the most qualified doctors to follow a high-risk pregnancy. Factors that may make a pregnancy high-risk include women who are diabetic, suffering from hypertension, have heart, liver, or kidney disease, have a genetic problem associated with their pregnancy or are over the age of 35. An obstetrician has the most training in complications that arise out of high-risk pregnancies. Therefore, almost all women considered to be high-risk receive obstetrical care.
Many women who are not having a high-risk pregnancy still choose an obstetrician as their primary prenatal care provider. For these women, they find it reassuring to know that their doctor is well equipped to deal with any complications or problems that may arise during their pregnancy. They also like having access to all the latest medical technology and techniques.
While many women prefer obstetrical prenatal care, it is important to find the right obstetrician for you. Unfortunately, the majority of obstetricians out there are men. While many of them provide excellent care, there are others who have a hard time seeing things from a woman’s perspective. This could mean that you have difficulty in receiving the level of care you want and may be expected to do as you are told rather than voice your opinion (although the same can be said for some female obstetricians).
Another drawback for some women is that obstetricians often work in groups. This can result in you being seen by different doctors and receiving different types of care throughout your pregnancy. However, all obstetrical offices are different, so be sure to ask if you’re concerned about this.
The Right Decision for You
Different obstetricians have privileges at different hospitals. If it is really important to you to deliver in a particular hospital, than you may want to look for an obstetrician with privileges at that hospital. Overall, though, your main concern should be with finding a doctor that you like. At your first visit, be sure to ask them questions about their practicing philosophy to make sure they can provide you with the kind of care and delivery experience you want. To find an obstetrician in your area, contact the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In Canada, contact the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. Also, ask your friends, family and co-workers if they have any recommendations. If you have a regular health care provider, they may know of an obstetrician that you can be referred to.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD