If you have been trying to conceive, you probably have your cycle calculated to the minute of ovulation. But have you planned what you will do once you get pregnant? I can tell you I had not thought that far ahead with my first child.
Choose Your Primary Care Provider
In Canada, you have the choice of a midwife, a family doctor or an obstetrician as your primary care provider during pregnancy. You can only have one designated as your primary care provider but that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize all of the services available. Midwives can have their patients seen by an obstetrician or other specialist if there are any complications during the pregnancy or if more information is needed. A plan of care is created for each mother and the different healthcare groups work together as a team.
No matter which direction you take, remember that you get to choose your healthcare provider. You, as the patient, can interview and choose who works best for your family. You should feel comfortable with your primary care provider so contact several healthcare practitioners until you find one you are happy with. This is a big moment in your life and you want a healthcare practitioner who is on your side and supports your goals.
What is a Midwife?
Registered midwives are health professionals who provide primary care to you and your baby during pregnancy, labour, birth and the postpartum period. Midwives are covered under MSP in British Columbia but midwifery care is not the same across Canada so check your provincial health plan to see if it is covered. If it is covered there is no extra charge to you.
Midwives receive a Bachelor of Midwifery from a Canadian university. Midwives can prescribe certain medications and can refer you to any healthcare professional you may need during your pregnancy and the six weeks following the birth of your baby. Midwives normally work in teams of three to five and each team only takes on a certain number of patients who are due each month. This ensures that a team member is available at every birth and you know the person delivering your baby. Go to the BabyCenter website to see what midwifery looks like across the country. Midwives can deliver babies at home or at the hospital; this is a decision you make with your midwife.
I had a midwife for all three of my pregnancies. Depending on your location and access to a midwife, having a midwife comes with some invaluable benefits such as six weeks of postpartum care. Depending on your location, your midwife will do home visits in the first few weeks after the birth of your baby, not only to check on the health of the baby but also to monitor the physical and mental health of mom and dad. Many midwives also assist with hands-on breastfeeding help.
What is an Obstetrician
Obstetricians (OBs) are surgeons who care for women during their pregnancy, delivery and just after the baby is born—up to six weeks. A gynecologist (GYN) is a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health, however, they do not deliver babies. If you require a cesarean section you will be referred to an obstetrician. An OB/GYN is trained to do all of these things. I had the pleasure of also having a great OB-GYN for my second labour as I had some complications, and the OB-GYN and midwives worked closely together to provide the care I needed.
Can My Family Doctor Deliver My Baby?
Some family doctors deliver babies. If you have a good relationship with your family doctor ask if she/he can deliver your baby. Also ask if your doctor works on call and if she/he will be there for the big day. Some doctors only work certain days on call. If baby comes on a different day, the on-call doctor at the hospital will deliver your baby.
What About a Doula?
A doula is a support person at your birth. They are trained to help with natural pain relief, breathing techniques and more. Some families want the extra emotional and physical support during labour. Doulas are not covered under provincial healthcare plans and you have to pay directly for this service. The doula is there to support the mother during labour, not the baby. Doulas are very common and many families are extremely happy to have hired a doula. Read more about doulas and how to find one HERE.
Nine months may seem like a long ways away, but the first eight months fly by while the last 30 days drag on and then the big day happens. When you go into labour, all of the birth planning and checklists you made might be thrown out the window. The birth will happen the way it needs to. But the most important thing is that you are prepared for the variety of scenarios and options that may arise.
Sign up for prenatal classes to learn about the stages of labour and your options. The more you know, the more you can be involved in the decision-making process. There are many points during labour when your healthcare provider will ask you a question and may give you different options. Making mid-labour decisions is easier if you are informed and educated in advance. This goes for you and your partner. Above all else, remember to listen to your body.
The Birth You Want
When it comes to the birth of your child, you may have an image in your head made up by the media where you are in a hospital bed, flat on your back in a horrible gown and a doctor in a white coat telling you to push. Common practice has evolved much faster than movies give it credit. There are many ways to give birth, whether in a hospital setting or at home, and does not involve lying on your back. Ask your healthcare team what they practice and if they are open to you birthing the way you want.