If you haven’t had kids before – or even if you have – you’ll quickly realize that pregnancy is full of choices.
Some choices are small, like finding a crib or picking out clothes. Other choices are bigger, like considering daycare options and choosing the perfect name. But one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is choosing who you’ll see for pregnancy care.
From your first prenatal appointment to your first several weeks postpartum, the person you trust with your care will be with you throughout your pregnancy journey. While midwives can be an option for pregnancy care, many women choose an OB-GYN doctor as that special person.
If you’re wondering what an OB-GYN is, don’t worry. We cover that below. If you’re wondering what an OB-GYN does during pregnancy or what you can expect during the birth experience, we have details on that too. And if you’re wondering whether an OB-GYN for pregnancy care is right for you, we have information that can help you decide.
What is an OB-GYN?
You might already know that an OB-GYN is a women’s health care specialist. But more specifically, an OB-GYN – which is short for obstetrician-gynecologist – is a medical doctor who is an expert in female reproductive health.
OB-GYNs can provide all sorts of care including well visits (also called annual exams), sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, breast exams, heavy periods, birth control and any type of gynecologic concern.
When it comes to pregnancy care, that’s where the “OB” part of the name comes into play.
Obstetrics is the specialty branch of medicine focused on helping women with guided treatments throughout their pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period. OB-GYNs are experts on everything that’s routine when you’re expecting, and also everything that’s not. OB-GYNs also deliver babies, both vaginally and via Cesarean section (C-section).
So, how is an OB-GYN different from an obstetrician or a gynecologist?
Obstetricians only care for women during pregnancy and just after the baby is born. Gynecologists, on the other hand, focus on women’s reproductive health overall. But an OB-GYN is trained in both obstetrics and gynecology, though some doctors choose to practice exclusively in one area.
What about certified nurse-midwives? What’s the difference?
Both OB-GYNs and certified nurse-midwives are highly trained, licensed and experienced in pregnancy care and delivering babies. But there are a few things that set these two specialists apart.
One of the main differences between OB-GYNs and midwives are their birthing specialties: OB-GYNs can care for women with high-risk pregnancies while midwives are well suited to care for low-risk pregnancies and women who want no-to-low intervention deliveries.
What does an OB-GYN do during pregnancy?
When you choose an OB-GYN for pregnancy care, they’ll focus on your overall well-being throughout your pregnancy. They draw from the latest in evidence-based medicine, using their experience to offer tailored care based on each stage of pregnancy.
In addition, OB-GYNs are familiar with complex pregnancy and delivery challenges. They’re well equipped to manage your care no matter what.
Prenatal care with an OB-GYN: What to expect as your pregnancy progresses
With an OB-GYN, you can expect monthly, biweekly and then weekly prenatal visits to track your baby’s growth as delivery day approaches. Your OB-GYN may partner with a nurse practitioner, and your care team will monitor your baby’s heartbeat and growth as well as answer any questions you might have.
During your prenatal visits, your OB-GYN can also help you create your birth plan, which will include how you’d like to deliver your baby and how you’d like to manage pain. This is important for a couple reasons.
For one, creating a plan helps you prepare for the big day. But it’s also important to help you have the kind of care and experience you want – especially in the likely event that another OB-GYN is on-call when it’s time for your baby to come.
Giving birth with an OB-GYN: What to expect on delivery day
You’ll deliver your baby at a hospital or hospital-based birth center. Your doctor will coordinate your care team, which will include nurses, plus other specialists if needed. But it’s important to note that while your OB-GYN will deliver your baby, they usually rely on their care team to monitor your labor and let them know when the big moment is getting close.
Your OB-GYN will also explain your options for using common birth interventions that aid delivery. For example, they’ll let you know what to expect if you choose an epidural (anesthesia for pain relief) or have an induced labor. They can also perform unplanned and emergency C-sections and other procedures if complications arise.
When it comes to the environment you can expect, that will depend on the hospital you choose. All of our birth centers have been designed with you in mind. We want to help you have the birthing experience you’re hoping for – and your OB-GYN and the rest of your care team play a big role in that.
Postpartum care with an OB-GYN: What to expect as you recover from childbirth
You probably know that your baby’s check-up schedule will be a busy one for the first 12 months or so of their life. But your health is incredibly important too – especially in the first months or so after giving birth. That’s where postpartum check-ups come in.
Within six weeks of having your baby, your OB-GYN will want to see you to make sure you’re recovering well. From there, you’ll work with your OB-GYN to determine whether you need additional follow-up visits over the next several weeks.
Is an OB-GYN the right choice for your pregnancy care?
Choosing who to trust with your pregnancy care and child’s birth is a big decision. An OB-GYN might be the right choice for you if:
- You have a preexisting medical condition (e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and more)
- You have a complex pregnancy (e.g. you’re expecting twins, triplets or other multiples, or you’ve been deemed high-risk for another reason)
- You’d prefer a doctor who’s expertly trained in providing medical and surgical interventions when necessary during labor and birth
How do you choose an OB-GYN for pregnancy care?
From location to experience to a personality match, who you choose depends on what you’re looking for in a doctor. Whether you end up choosing an OB-GYN or a midwife, you’ll be working with a certified professional who’s focused on getting you the best possible care. It just comes down to choosing the best match for you.
That said, here are a few things to consider as you research OB-GYNs:
Look for a board-certified OB-GYN
You want to be confident in your OB-GYN’s education, knowledge, experience and skill. Our OB-GYNs are board-certified and that means they’ve met all the requirements for certification by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This certification is a testament to their expertise in their field.
Find out how many OB-GYNs are on their delivery team
Unless you have a scheduled C-section with your OB-GYN, chances are your baby is coming when they’re good and ready. That means it’s possible that another OB-GYN on your doctor’s team will be on-call and help deliver your baby. So, knowing how large and who is on your doctor’s team can help you know what to expect.
Think about how you want to get care after your baby arrives
If you choose an OB-GYN for your pregnancy, your relationship doesn’t have to end after your baby arrives. Beyond postpartum care and counseling, OB-GYNs can provide ongoing care so you can stay healthy throughout all stages of your life.
If you already have a relationship with an OB-GYN or an OB-GYN practice, that’s great. In most cases, you can continue to see your same care team. But if you’re looking for a new doctor, ask yourself what qualities are most important to you.
Get in touch with your insurance company
There’s no worse surprise than an unexpected health care bill. So, as you would do when choosing any doctor or hospital, call your insurance company and check what’s covered before you make your first appointment.
Ready to look for an OB-GYN? We can help.
How do you find the right OB-GYN for your pregnancy? We try to make it as easy as possible.
Through our doctor match tool, you’ll answer a few simple questions and we'll match you with doctors who fit your preferences. From there you can make an appointment with a doctor of your choice, or you can explore their individual profiles and reviews to help you choose.
To make it easy for you to get quality, convenient care, we offer a range of appointment options including in-person and video visits for prenatal care.