Midwife or OB/GYN: Who’s Right for You?

Nov 10, 2022


If you’re planning to start a family or are pregnant (whether for the first time or the fifth!), you may be asking, “Who’s going to be my care provider and deliver my baby?” A good place to start is deciding is whether you’ll be seen by a certified nurse-midwife or an OB/GYN.

But what’s the difference between the two, and how will your experience vary? Read on to learn how these experts can guide you through pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum.

What’s the difference?

Certified nurse-midwives

A certified nurse-midwife has a master’s degree in nursing, with a focus on pregnancy, birth, postpartum care, newborn care, and women’s health and contraception. All of our midwives are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board, as indicated by “CNM” after their name.

Our midwives also all have specific experience in supporting women in unmedicated, physiologic labor and have all worked in birth centers and home births in the past. “Labor can be hard, but your midwife is there to provide one-on-one care every step of the way,” says Kori Pienovi, CNM. “We’re there to encourage you in the hardest parts of labor and give you the tools and support to bring your little one into the world. We know it’s difficult, but we get to watch women overcome the pain of labor every single day.”

Midwife deliveries, for those who are low-risk, take place in special midwifery suites (like those found in birth centers) within our hospital's Family Birth Place. These rooms offer comfort tools like a labor tub, a queen-size bed, birth balls, squatting bars, mats for kneeling and birth stools. They also lack the beeping and whirring machines and monitors found in traditional hospital labor and delivery rooms.

If a patient becomes moderate- or high-risk during labor or delivery, or if they desire pain management beyond water immersion or nitrous oxide, they may be moved to a traditional labor and delivery room while remaining under the care of midwives.

“Our aim is to provide compassionate care, holding space for your story and allowing you to be the guide as you navigate your personal birthing journey,” says Catherine Schaefer, CNM. “Your midwife will meet you when you first check in and support you through your labor and delivery, along with doulas and nurses. All of us allow you to labor without a lot of interruptions.”


An OB/GYN is a medical doctor who provides prenatal and postpartum care and delivers babies. They are experts in complicated cases and are also surgeons who can perform both planned and unplanned C-sections. Like CNMs, they work with you to meet your birth goals.

If you’re delivering with an OB/GYN, you’ll be in a traditional labor and delivery room with access to epidurals and other medical interventions. Much of your labor care will be managed by nurses. Your personal doula can support you in your birth, and an anesthesiologist is on call for pain management.


Beyond labor and delivery, both OB/GYNs and midwives provide a full range of women’s health care from well-woman visits to family planning, pregnancy, birth and menopause care.

If complications arrive during your pregnancy, labor or delivery, midwives can use medical intervention and have full access to our OB/GYNs for support and collaboration. Both doctors and midwives share a common goal: to keep you and your little one safe and healthy during pregnancy, labor, birth, delivery and the postpartum period.

Who to pick

It can be overwhelming to decide on a care provider — especially in the early stages of pregnancy. You may want to start by asking yourself what type of birth you’d like to have. Here are some questions to guide your decision.

Is my pregnancy high-risk?

If you have a high-risk or complicated pregnancy, your care will be managed by an OB/GYN. If you have a low-risk or uncomplicated pregnancy, you can opt for a midwife if you’re planning on an unmedicated, low-intervention birth.

Some factors that may lead to a high-risk pregnancy include preexisting conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.

If you’re not sure, ask your current care provider whether your pregnancy is high-risk or low-risk. Keep in mind that status could change throughout your pregnancy.

How do I want to manage my pain?

The pain of childbirth can be managed through water immersion, nitrous oxide, IV pain medication or an epidural. All the providers at Family Birth Place honor your choice for how you wish to cope with labor. If you’re planning a low-intervention birth, you may want to be seen by a midwife. If you’re planning to use an epidural or other medication, you may want to be seen by an OB/GYN.

If you'd like an unmedicated/physiologic birth, our midwives have created an environment to support this in our midwifery suites. Midwives are experienced in supporting you through the challenges of labor and birth by using your own inner resources and strength.

Do I need to have a C-section?

If you’ve had a C-section before and need to have a scheduled C-section, your surgeon will be an OB/GYN physician. Even if you’ve been seen by a midwife for prenatal care and need to have an unplanned C-section, an OB/GYN will perform the operation to deliver your baby. However, a midwife will assist during the procedure and remain with you throughout labor and delivery.

The best of both worlds

When you give birth at our Family Birth Place, you have the best of both worlds: highly trained and qualified midwives to attend your birth and support the goals of your birth plan plus a full team of OB/GYNs and nurses available in a safe, comfortable environment.

No matter who you choose or how your baby makes their entrance into the world, your entire Family Birth Center care team is here to support you every step of the way. Meet our team to find the provider who’s right for you.

Tags: Maternity