After going through one birth using a doctor and one having a midwife I was surprised at the considerable differences. My first birth experience I had the mindset of, “I’ll leave it in the hands of the professional, they know what’s best.” Where as my second birth, I wanted to be more in charge. It was more important for me to see what my options were and I wanted to have a stronger support system. This is when I started to explore the option of having a midwife and realizing that there are some substantial differences between the two.
As you read this post, and I share my personal experiences, know that both my experiences were good. I enjoyed having both a doctor and a midwife. There were just certain aspects of having a midwife that doctor’s do not offer.
I believed a lot of things that were not true about having a midwife (like having to have a home birth or that it costs money). I never did the proper research on my own the first time around and wanted to share this post in hopes that it reaches others who just don’t know their options.
This post is written in comparison to using a Doctor and a Midwife in BC, more specifically Abbotsford. As things change from city to city and province to province be sure to look into some of these topics yourself within your area to confirm.
6 Differences Between Using a Doctor and a Midwife
Midwives have their own offices
I will never forget as a kid and my sister said to me at a doctor’s office, “Don’t touch that, sick people come here!” It has forever changed the way that I look at doctor’s offices. Making me feel less comfortable and always afraid myself or the kids might pick up something. My first appointment at my midwifery office I walked in to see a little play area for kids, a couch and rocking chair to rest. They create an comfortable atmosphere for the whole family, which allowed me to feel relaxed.
Length of Appointment Time
Though I never felt rushed at my doctor’s appointments, the waiting rooms were always full and the receptionist always made me feel like she had better things to do than check me in. There is just a lot more going on at doctor’s offices. My appointment times with my midwife were scheduled for half hour slots. The larger time period allows for a more in depth appointment where your midwife practices “informed choice”. The longer appointments allow for a full in depth conversation about the risks and benefits that are involved with every decision, through pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
At the midwifery office I also found there was only ever one or two other people in the waiting area, coming or going, and I built a relationship with the receptionist throughout my time there. The atmosphere was always relaxed and inviting, just the way it should be for any pregnant mom.
Focus on Choice
I found that when decisions were presented to me there were two very different approaches. With my doctor, I was typically offered a choice in a way where my decision was guided choice, known as “informed consent”. Where when a decision was to be made it was presented more in a way that guided me to make that choice, and informing me about what I would be agreeing to. During my first pregnancy this is exactly what I wanted. I felt worried to make the wrong decision and felt comforted being led to make a choice. Though looking back, I don’t know if I would have made some of the same decisions now.
In my second pregnancy with my midwife I found myself often thinking, “Oh I didn’t know I had that option.” Midwives typically present a decision going in depth on all your options, known as “informed choice”. The options were always given and explained with up to date evidence based care and I was presented with the opportunity to research and come back with a decision.
The Person at Delivery
When I was seeing my doctor, I knew that there was a good chance that they were not going to be the person at my delivery. At the time I didn’t think this was a very big deal, though after going through my first birth experience I felt otherwise. One of the main changes I wanted the second time around was to have a better support system. I knew that I needed more support in the delivery room. There is a chance that your midwife isn’t available during your labour/birth but you would get to know your back up midwife if it happens that your midwife is away or at another birth.
Your midwife at the hospital is there to support you throughout your whole labour. They are not coming and going like a doctor would, but they’re by your side walking you through each step along the way. In my opinion, this is one major difference that makes a huge impact on your birthing experience. The support from your midwife is so valuable. This is called ‘continuity of care’ where your midwife is present from the time you are admitted to the hospital to a few hours after birth.
You can also choose to have a home birth, in this case you would have one midwife by your side for the entirety of your labour at your home during delivery. Another midwife is kept to date of the progress of your labour and would arrive when called by the first midwife (typically close to pushing time). *This can vary depending on your midwife office, some offices will have two midwifes present through the entirety of the labour.
Statistically Less Caesarean Rate with a Midwife
It’s been statistically proven deliveries that include a midwife have a much lower chance of resulting in caesarean.
“Midwives have a 42% lower caesarean section rate than the provincial average. However, in certain circumstances a caesarean birth may be recommended as a safer option than a vaginal birth. In most situations midwives are involved in the decision making process, and will usually be present during a caesarean birth and for healthy baby care afterwards.” See FAQ online here: https://www.bcmidwives.
Having gone through an emergency c-section delivery with my first and a VBAC with my second I can understand how midwifery care made such a difference. Midwives do still take on patients that are having scheduled caesarean’s and support them throughout the entire process.
Postpartum Home Visits
Having checkups for the first six weeks postpartum was one of the best gifts of having a midwife. For the first week the midwives do the checkups in your own home. This is something that doctors used to do years ago, and in some areas still might, but I believe is not common for them at all anymore. Having these home visits was so impactful for getting through that first week postpartum, and brought so much comfort and security. Whether it’s your first or fourth, not having to pack up a newborn and enter a doctor’s office is such a blessing.
Also, according to a Fact Sheet published by Perinatal Services BC: “Rates of EBF (Exclusively breast fed) were highest among mothers who had a midwife involved in her care.” See more here: http://www.perinatalserv
icesbc.ca/Documents/Data- Surveillance/Reports/ FactSheets/FactSheet_BF.pdf
Please Note: There is NO difference in cost to you. This is one thing that I had a misconception about when first pregnant. I always thought that a Midwife would cost me extra money and didn’t ever look into it. You are covered under MSP to use a Midwife. Also, what I recently found out is that midwifery care actually saves the government money. They save approximately $60 million a year!! These savings are from mainly fewer caesareans, shorter hospital stays and fewer hospital admissions. The money saved allows for funds to be spent on other health care priorities.
At the end of the day, it is important to choose what feels right for you. Not everyone is going to be the best fit for a doctor and vice versa. It is important, however, that you are doing the research. Finding out what is best for you, and where you will feel the most comfortable throughout your journey of pregnancy, labour and postpartum.
*Photos below from a Midwife home visit. Thank you to Angela of KEWE Clothing for letting me capture these moments.
Want More Information about BC Midwives:
*All statistics and information from Midwives Association of BC.
- Midwives play a significant and growing role in the delivery of primary maternity care and were involved in the care of 22.4% of all babies born in BC in 2015/16 and in 36.5% of the births on Vancouver Island.
- During pregnancy, clients will meet all the midwives who share in their care so that familiarity is established prior to birth.
- Midwives offer a complete panel of prenatal laboratory tests, genetic screening and diagnosis options, ultrasound imaging and many other tests and procedures.
If you are unsure if midwifery care is for you the best person to ask is a midwife. Call any local midwifery office and ask them. Unfortunately physicians, like the general public, are still misinformed about midwifery care and too often women are told by their family doctors that they “need to have a doctor ” but in fact the woman is actually a great candidate for midwifery care. Your midwife will be honest with you when you explain what your needs and wants are and if they feel that you would be better suited for a doctor they will inform you.
For more information on midwifery care contactWest Coast Health Collective | Website