Here are some of the professionals you are most likely to encounter:
• Obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs) are doctors trained to specialize in the general medical care of women—including their needs during pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period. Doctors in family practice may also provide care for their pregnant patients.
• Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) obstetricians specialize in the care of pregnant women who have an underlying medical condition, pregnancy complications or complications with their developing fetus. These specialists could be involved in your pregnancy for a 1-time consultation, ongoing care or care during hospitalization for a pregnancy or childbirth complication.
• Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are registered nurses with special training in caring for women through pregnancy and delivery. These nurses have a graduate degree in midwifery and have been certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
• Nurse-practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses with advanced academic and clinical experience. NPs provide routine care—blood pressure checks, measurements and more—during your prenatal visits. They do not deliver babies.
• Childbirth educators are trained to provide families with information about and emotional support for labor and delivery. Certified childbirth educators hold classes in hospitals or other settings to help you prepare for birth and parenthood.
• Labor and delivery nurses monitor you and your baby’s progress, provide comfort and support, and assist throughout your labor and delivery in a hospital or birthing center. After your baby is born, postpartum or neonatal nurses, sometimes called mother-baby nurses, will take care of you and your baby, answer your questions, and help you feel comfortable caring for yourself and your new baby.
• Lactation consultants (LCs) are experts in lactation and helping mothers learn to breastfeed. They can be nurses, midwives, childbirth educators, obstetricians, pediatricians or La Leche League leaders. Lactation consultants must pass a rigorous certification exam offered by The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBCLE). Most hospitals have LCs on staff to help while you are in the hospital.
Once you’re home, you might need the services of a lactation consultant if your hospital does not provide lactation support after discharge. Check with your pediatrician’s office to see if they employ a board-certified lactation consultant. If not, call your local childbirth education program. They often can help you find a private LC who will come to your home to help for a fee.
• Doulas are trained in providing physical, emotional and informational support to a woman before, during and after childbirth. They are advocates for expectant parents—helping a laboring woman to plan and prepare for childbirth, providing support and comfort during labor and facilitating communication between her and her clinical care provider during childbirth.