There are multiple medical professionals who help with childbirth: nurses, doulas, midwives and OB/GYNs. They all play different but important roles during a woman’s pregnancy. You might be considering midwifery or obstetrics and gynecology for your career. International Medical Aid provides Midwifery Internships Abroad for pre-med students. You’ll shadow midwives as they provide healthcare for expectant mothers. It’s an unforgettable clinical experience for midwifery students.
If you’re interested in midwifery or obstetrics and gynecology, but not enough for volunteer work abroad, then this article is for you. We’re going to discuss the differences between a midwife vs a doctor. There are tons of similarities, but there are also important differences.
Did you know that midwives can conduct annual exams, prescribe birth control and help their patients get through menopause? Indeed, they are capable of a lot. But, they’re specifically known for pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. They can help at any point during a patient’s journey, from the time they find out they’re pregnant to the delivery room.
Levels of Midwifery
There are three levels of midwifery.
Certified professional midwives work without a college degree. Instead, they have specific training in their field. They have met the qualifications and passed the necessary exams for certification through the North American Registry of Midwives.
Certified midwives have more education than certified professional midwives. They’re not nurses, but they’ve earned their master’s degree in midwifery. Additionally, they’ve received certification through the American Midwifery Certification Board.
Certified nurse-midwives are registered nurses with master’s degrees in nursing. They also hold certification through the American Midwifery Certification Board.
All three levels of midwifery allow the midwife to help a patient through labor and delivery, as well as throughout the entire pregnancy.
A Midwife’s Approach
Midwives are known for providing holistic healthcare. They will meet their patients in a hospital setting, but they’re known for home births and birthing tubs. A midwife will go to a patient’s house to take their vitals and let the mother hear her baby’s heartbeat. A doctor wouldn’t typically do that. Midwives don’t rely on much technology, either. They’ll generally wait for the mother to go into labor. Inducing labor is rare. And the mother generally goes without much, if any, pain medication.
Midwives work at hospitals and birthing centers, as well as in homes. Not every midwife works in every setting. If you feel strongly about working in a hospital setting, you can choose to only work in that hospital setting. If a patient wants a midwife at a birthing center, then that patient can find a midwife who is comfortable working in a birthing center.
Midwives are unique healthcare providers who provide gentle, natural healthcare. They are one of a kind in their field and have helped many expectant mothers through their journey to delivery.
Now that we’ve looked at what midwives are and the role they play in pregnancy and childbirth, let’s look at OBGYNs.
OBGYNs can do everything that midwives can do, and more. While higher-level midwives are nurses with master’s degrees, OBGYNs are doctors with extensive training. That training includes the residency and fellowship that sets doctors apart from nurses. OBGYN stands for obstetrician-gynecologist, which means that OBGYNs practice all the medicine that relates to women’s healthcare. You may find an obstetrician that’s strictly an obstetrician. The same is true for gynecologists. But an OBGYN is both.
Levels of OBGYNs
There are two different kinds of OBGYNs.
Board-eligible OBGYNs are OBGYNs who completed all their medical training: medical school, residency and fellowship. They are eligible to be board-certified through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Whether or not they are board-certified doesn’t affect their ability to practice medicine.
Board-certified OBGYNs are OBGYNs who have gone through the extra effort of becoming certified through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. They have more training and experience than board-eligible OBGYNs because of the commitment it takes to become board-certified.
That commitment involves a qualifying exam, experience in multiple categories of medicine that demonstrate their ability and a certification test. Becoming board-certified is a professional way of saying that you’ve gone above and beyond. You’re highly qualified to treat a wide range of patients in your field.
OBGYNs are trained in all aspects of medicine that relate to pregnancy. This includes performing a Cesarean section (or a C-section) when necessary. A C-section is a surgery and cannot be performed by a midwife.
OBGYNs are trained to treat women who have more complex pregnancies or who are high-risk. For example, a diabetic patient would be considered high-risk. Complex pregnancies include having twins, or even triplets or quadruplets. OBGYNs are trained to be able to handle anything that could arise in pregnancy–no matter how big or small.
Choosing to Be a Midwife or an OBGYN
There’s no right or wrong answer regarding midwives or doctors. It’s a personal choice that’s really about what kind of healthcare you want to provide. If you want a low-stress environment where you can naturally help a baby be born, being a midwife would interest you more. If you want to handle high-risk, complex pregnancies that could involve amazing highlights and tragic losses, the extra training to become an OBGYN is probably worth it.
If you’re struggling to decide between the two, remember that we offer Midwifery Internships Abroad. These internships will allow you to shadow midwives as they treat pregnant women and help them safely deliver healthy babies. It will give you a good idea of whether being a midwife is for you. You might fall in love with it and pursue it as a career. Or you might want more and study to be an OBGYN.
Similarities Between a Midwife vs an OBGYN
Training and certification are extensive for midwives and OBGYNs. You will not be certified to help a woman through her pregnancy or delivery without the proper training. Choosing between the two is not a matter of competency or skill. It’s primarily about how much education you want and how involved you want to be.
Birth plans are important for midwives and OBGYNs. You’ll need to be comfortable honoring however a mother wants to deliver while providing guidance along the way.
The safety of the mother and baby should be very important to both midwives and OBGYNs. In fact, in some circumstances, a pregnancy could become high-risk and patient care would need to be transferred from a midwife to an OBGYN. This might not be an easy choice to make, but the safety of the mother and baby take priority above all else.
Differences Between a Midwife vs an OBGYN
Because OBGYNs have more extensive training, they can handle more. A midwife’s capabilities shift when a pregnancy becomes high risk. A midwife can stay on the patient’s team, but they can no longer be the primary healthcare provider. Delivering a baby could turn into an emergency C-section. A midwife can’t perform a C-section.
OBGYNs see their patients in clinical and hospital settings. Generally speaking, patients come to the clinic for checkups. They meet their OBGYN at the hospital if a complication arises or when it’s time to deliver. Midwives will meet their patients at the hospital, but they are better known for at-home births and birthing centers.
Salary Differences Between A Midwife vs An OBGYN
Just like doctors earn more than nurses, OBGYNs earn more than midwives. Of course, salaries differ by state, experience level and certification. But, on an annual basis, doctors earn at least $100,000 more. Of course, how much you get paid for your career is an important consideration.
Midwives and OBGYNs are both valuable healthcare providers. Beyond reading articles to learn more, clinical experience for midwifery students and/or volunteer work abroad can help you choose your career path. It’s also completely okay (and very normal) to start on one career path but transition to another. Remember that International Medical Aid is here to help! We offer admissions consulting and can help guide you on your journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions you might have.
We wish you the best on your journey to becoming a midwife or an OBGYN.