Get your FREE printable PDF HERE
Magnesium + B-6 supplement HERE ON AMAZON
Learn more about the “Fresh Test” HERE
Breastfeeding 101 + lactation support HERE
Get your FREE printable hospital bag packing list HERE
Different types of medical providers
While over 90% of women choose to work with an OB/GYN during their pregnancy, there are other options available. Each medical provider has gone through extensive training and certifications to assist pregnant women in their prenatal care, labor, and delivery.
When choosing a medical provider, you should consider what is important to you about your health care and your birth, but also what is available to you financially. If your insurance only covers certain providers, your options may be limited as to the type of provider you select; however, you may be able to "shop around" and find one within the insurance network that you feel most comfortable with.
In my opinion, the most important thing is that you come to the table advocating for yourself and being an active participant in your health care. You should NOT just show up to the doctors office and wait for them to make decisions for you and just do whatever they say. While they are the professionals, I want you to remember that technically, you are hiring them for a service and you reserve the right to ask questions, share what’s important to you, and even switch providers if the one you’re with isn’t a good fit.
- OBGYN: the most common type of prenatal medical provider. They can either be certified as an MD or a DO and most often work in a traditional clinic with western medicine training, resources, and practices. “An MD is a Doctor of Medicine, while a DO is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. The bottom line? They do the same job, have similar schooling, can prescribe medication and can practice all over the U.S. in general, DOs practice a more holistic, whole-person type of care”
- Certified nurse midwife: a registered nurse who has completed both accredited graduate-level programs in midwifery and a certification exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. They work with low risk pregnancies, use minimal technological intervention, and focus on vaginal births and natural births, avoiding C sections when possible. They work in hospitals, birth centers, and at your home. They can prescribe medications, but prefer the “less is more” approach and help do preventative measures upfront to avoid medications. One of the main differences between midwifery care and obstetric care is the frequency of postpartum visits. Midwives are much more involved in the early postpartum period and can come visit you in your home.
- Family practice doctor: trained in primary care, maternal care, and pediatric care. This means you and your child could have the same doctor for all of your needs. This doctor is a great choice if you have a low risk pregnancy. However, if complications arise, including the possibility of a C section, you’ll be referred to an OB.
- Doula: also known as a “labor support companion.” The doula is a certified professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. Their purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. During delivery, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother. They have the ability to provide comfort with pain-relief techniques including breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and laboring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance. Doulas can also be hired just for the postpartum period while you recover. They can help with baby, your healing, or anything around the house like cooking, cleaning, and watching the siblings. While doulas are usually included in the health care of a low risk, natural birth, they are a great option whether or not you want an unmedicated birth. Many women report fewer medical interventions overall when a doula is present, especially when they’re giving birth in a hospital.
- Midwife vs doula: midwives provide medical care for you during pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum period. Doulas provide you and your family with emotional, informational, and physical support during pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period.
What to expect at prenatal appointments
Depending on when you find out you're pregnant and when you first visit your medical provider, a typical appointment schedule for a low risk pregnancy has appointments:
- Once a month from weeks 4-28
- Twice a month from weeks 28-36
- Once a week from weeks 36-delivery
You might be considered a high risk pregnancy if you are older than 35, overweight, pregnant with multiples, or if you experienced health complications like diabetes, cancer, or high blood pressure prior to pregnancy.
The number of ultrasounds varies from provider to provider, but usually you get an ultrasound during your first appointment, at 16-20 weeks for an anatomy scan, and one more time around 32 weeks. If you've experienced complications or need to be seen for a medical emergency, you might have more ultrasounds to check on baby's movement and heart rate.
At every prenatal appointment, your doctor will assess the following:
- Your weight (P.S. you can tell them you don't want to know or discuss your weight! This is just for their records and part of procedure)
- Your blood pressure
- Urine sample (to check for signs of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes)
- Baby's heart rate
In addition, you might be advised to take different tests like:
- Ultrasounds (for baby)
- Blood work (to check your vitamins, minerals, and Rh levels)
- Glucose screenings (you have options for this!)
- Group B strep (your results might affect your delivery but not pregnancy)
- Nonstress tests (checking how baby responds to movement in third trimester)
- Nuchal translucency screening (to check for chromosomal abnormalities and possible birth defects)
- Pap smears
- Pelvic exams
Lastly, you might be advised to be vaccinated for certain diseases like the flu, COVID, tetanus, or Tdap. All of these are optional.
***Before beginning, I want to preface this conversation by saying that you are not obligated to ask all of these questions and you can 100% ask more questions that what I’ve come up with.
This list of questions was compiled by me and my experience/expertise as well as women from all over the internet and their experiences.
You also don’t have to be a first time mom to ask these questions. I used this guide during my this pregnancy (my second one) to help me find a provider that I was comfortable with.
I also want to remind you that you don’t have to take notes because I created a printable PDF of this entire episode that you can download straight to your phone! It’s available in the shownotes on the blog.
Questions to ask during first trimester
- How often will I have ultrasounds?
- What medications are safe, especially for pain management?
- What are my options for managing nausea?
- What is a safe range for baby’s heartbeat throughout pregnancy?
- If I have concerns outside of office hours, who should I contact?
- How much do my opinions about treatment matter to you?
- What are three symptoms I should immediately call you about?
- How will my _____ [insert medical condition/injury/surgery/chronic illness] affect my pregnancy?
- What are my options for birth that you support? NOTE: if the doctor you’re talking to doesn’t support a birth plan that you want, that doesn’t mean it’s not safe or that you can’t have it. It just means you need to find a different provider!
- What’s something you’ve changed your mind about since you started your career?
- Why do you love your job?
Questions to ask during second trimester
- What should I learn about my baby during the anatomy scan?
- When should I begin counting baby’s kicks each day?
- If I don’t want to take the glucola drink to test for GD, what are my alternatives?
Questions to ask during third trimester
- What resources do you have that will help me prepare for birth?
- What are the risks/benefits of an unmedicated birth? What are my options for medicated and unmedicated?
- Can you describe the step by step process of a C section?
- Do you allow photographers/videographers in the delivery room?
- If you can’t attend my birth, who is someone you trust to fill in?
- If baby isn’t progressing, what are your next steps?
- Can you tell me about a birth that didn’t go as expected? How did you respond and what was your solution?
- What support is available once I have my baby?
- What are my options for feeding baby after birth?
- Do you have a colleague/someone in network that is certified as a pelvic floor physical therapist that you can refer me to?
- What are your top 3 recommendations for pediatricians in the area?