5 Options when Selecting a Practitioner for Your Pregnancy

By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

Many kinds of professionals can help you through pregnancy and delivery. Be sure to choose a practitioner with whom you feel comfortable. Review this list of the basic five:

  • Obstetrician/gynecologist: After completing medical school, this physician receives another four years of special training in pregnancy, delivery, and women’s health. She should be board certified (or be in the process of becoming board certified) by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (or an equivalent program if you’re from a country other than the United States).

  • Maternal-fetal medicine specialist: Also known as a perinatologist or high-risk obstetrician, this type of doctor has completed a two- to three-year fellowship in the care of high-risk pregnancies, in addition to the standard obstetrics residency, to become board certified in maternal-fetal medicine.

    Some maternal-fetal medicine specialists act only as consultants, and some also deliver babies. You might seek the care or even a consultation with a high-risk specialist if you have had a history of problem pregnancies (prior preterm delivery, history of preeclampsia, or multiple miscarriages), if you have underlying medical problems (like diabetes or chronic hypertension), or if your fetus has been diagnosed with a disorder.

  • Family practice physician: This doctor provides general medical care for families — men, women, and children. She is board certified in family practice medicine. This kind of doctor is likely to refer you to an obstetrician or maternal-fetal medicine specialist if complications arise during your pregnancy.

  • Nurse-midwife: A nurse-midwife is a registered nurse who has completed additional training to obtain a master’s degree in nursing and is also licensed to perform deliveries. A certified nurse-midwife typically practices in a setting where there is a physician available and refers patients when complications occur.

  • Nurse practitioner: A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has completed additional training to obtain a master’s degree in nursing and is trained to provide routine prenatal care, but typically does not perform deliveries. She usually practices in conjunction with a physician; whether you see the nurse practitioner or the physician for your prenatal visits depends on the individual practice and where you are in your pregnancy.