I’ve been lucky enough to work with some pretty great labor and delivery partners in all of my births.
Starting from my first birth, where I delivered in the hospital where I worked as an OB technician — to delivering my fourth, under the care of a doctor I worked side-by-side with as a labor and delivery nurse. You could say I’ve pretty much been in the “thick” of things when it came to all of my deliveries.
And part of that may have been because I was privileged enough to work in obstetrics and know many of the nurses, techs, and doctors that were present for my labor and deliveries. But however it worked out, I’ve ran the gamut of birthing options available. My first two births were with a nurse-midwife and my last two were with doctors, although all of them happened in a hospital. From an all-natural birth to a walking epidural to a full-blown epidural, I’ve experienced a lot of different kinds of births and I will say that there are some major differences to how a woman gives birth with a midwife vs. a doctor.
Neither way is better than the other, but if you’re considering choosing a midwife over a doctor (or the other way around) here’s what I’d like you to know from my experiences:
1. Midwifes can offer individualized attention.
I will never, ever forget my first birth with my daughter. After my water leaked at home (and yes, that’s a real thing — your water can leak, then seal back up) and I spent an entire day walking 800 miles with nothing to show for it, my midwife recommended we come to the hospital. After the worst, most bump-defying (pun maybe intended?) ride of my life, we arrived shortly after midnight and my contractions quickly picked up. I climbed into the tub at the hospital and I was shocked when my midwife simply followed me in and plopped down on the bathroom floor, coffee cup in hand. She wasn’t there to check me, talk to me, or assess me — she was simply there to be with me. Can you imagine a doctor doing something like that?
2. They also give you more options for pain management.
I hesitate to sound like I’m doctor bashing here, but I honestly felt like I had more options with my nurse-midwife deliveries. I could labor in the tub, I could walk around, I could have snacks to keep me motivated, I could get a walking epidural (it’s like a one-shot epidural that dulls the pain, but doesn’t completely numb you) and I could even have drugs in my IV. (She didn’t, however, offer epidurals.) A lot of it depends on where you deliver, of course, but with my doctor-assisted births, I had two options: epidural or nothing.
3. But they often have less experience.
Now comes the negative part of my midwife experience. With my second daughter, I had a much less experienced midwife and she majorly botched my stitches, to the point where I was in constant pain until my next baby, when the doctor fixed her mistakes. Midwives are great, but in this case, she may have not had enough experience with episiotomies to know how to stitch me up properly.
4. Doctors are more likely to intimidate you into choosing their way.
My fourth pregnancy was a bit more complicated than my previous three. After being diagnosed with polyhydramnios, which can be serious but in most cases really isn’t that dangerous, my doctor recommended an induction at only 37 weeks along. As a pretty go-with-the-flow pregnant person, I’m firmly anti-inductions and when I expressed my hesitation to her, she didn’t hold back on flexing her good cop, bad mom muscles. “Do you really want to take that risk to your baby?” she said, her tone instantly changing. For the first time in my four pregnancies, I felt the power of medical intimidation. And whether or not she was right is not the point — it was more the fact that I simply had never experienced that type of power imbalance before.
5. A midwife is often more flexible.
I mean this one in both a literal and figurative sense. My OB was pretty flexible, to a point, because she knew me personally, but when it came to the “big” things about labor, such as walking, eating, and interventions, she was much more rigid. My midwife, on the other hand, definitely made me feel like I was the one in control, not the other way around.
And when it really came down to it, my midwife-assisted birth is where things really got real. Without an epidural, my midwife (and the incredible nurses!) literally supported me during the very physical work of labor. In and out of the tub, in the rocking chair, during one unfortunate incident when I tried to actually leave the bed (it was a long labor, ok?) and finally, during my second birth, when instead of forcing me into stirrups and onto my back, the team with my midwife simply let me stay on my side and climbed right into the bed with me to catch the baby. #NBD
Although there were differences between my midwife and doctor births, there are no certainties with either. I’ve had great care with both and the most important thing I think any woman can remember is that whomever you choose should empower you and be on your team. It’s not an imaginary midwife vs. doctor war and I really do believe that most doctors want to accommodate women and respect the natural process of birth, so they don’t always have to be at polar ends of the spectrum. Some doctors are a lot more relaxed with natural birthing and some midwives are more skilled in high-risk, emergency situations.
Point being? Know what you want in a birthing provider and work with them, not against them, for your labor and delivery. Because the end result of a healthy baby and mom is really all that matters.More On