Obstetrician or perinatologist. These highly trained specialists are the most common picks for prenatal care. If your pregnancy is considered high risk in any way, you will probably need to see one of these niche docs. (A personal history of epilepsy, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or complications in previous pregnancies will place you in this category.) Likewise, if you’re expecting multiples, you should spend quality time with an OB or perinatal specialist.
Family practitioner. If your current gynecologist or family practitioner also practices obstetrics, she may be your most comfortable choice. Her familiarity with your history and family will be reassuring and, like any practitioner, she can refer you to a specialist should you encounter serious complications.
Certified nurse-midwife (CNM). If you’re interested in birthing naturally or pursuing an alternative birth plan, you may want to consider using a midwife. Midwives work to create the best mind and body birth experiences without relying on unnecessary medical interventions. CNMs work closely with OBs, so an MD is never far away.
Direct-entry midwife. These midwives often attend home births. They are not trained nurses, but they may be Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) or Certified Midwives (CMs). A “traditional midwife” is not certified but has learned through experience; depending on your home state, certain midwifery certifications will or will not qualify these midwives as legal medical practitioners.
Hospital. Most U.S. deliveries are performed in hospitals. The typical routine includes medical interventions such as constant fetal monitoring, an IV feed with the optional use of oxytocin to encourage labor, and an epidural for pain management. However, hospitals are evolving, and many now encourage a more natural process by cutting back on interventions, encouraging mother-baby bonding, and even providing birthing tubs. If you favor a certain hospital because of its location or reputation, make sure you choose a doctor who has privileges there. If you employ a CNM, she may help you deliver at the hospital with a doctor on hand if needed.
Birthing center. These locales provide many prenatal and postpartum services along with delivery care. They are usually cozier, more soothing environments than hospitals. You choose how many people can be in the delivery room, and kids are welcome. Breastfeeding, rooming in and natural birth practices are strongly supported. The midwives on staff can help with normal birth processes; for quick access in case of an emergency, choose a birthing center near a hospital.