Teamwork makes the dream work!
Just look at the Justice League, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, or the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department! Being a part of a team that knows how to use each members’ strengths most effectively will make a huge difference in the way you experience pregnancy, labor, and birth. Today, we’re going to talk about the different roles on a birth support team, and how they can help you achieve your goals for the childbearing year.
Health Care Providers (HCP)s
There are two major models of prenatal care - the Midwifery model and the Medical model. There’s a lot to unpack about each of them, but for now, here’s a general comparison of these models of care:
Medical Model of Care (Obstetrician Care)
Based on the premise that childbirth is unpredictable and potentially unsafe. Routine procedures give HCP more control.
Belief that interventions improve labor and birth, Cesareans are as safe or safer than spontaneous labor/vaginal birth.
Routine interventions are used before any problems arise. If there are complications, OBs tend to intervene as quickly as possible using whatever tool is most likely to work the best.
Midwifery Model of Care (Midwife Care)
Based on the premise that birth is a normal process and most of the time doesn’t require a lot of medical intervention.
Low interventions and Cesarean rates are preferable. Belief that participation contributes to healthy pregnancy/labor/birth, so childbirth education is recommended.
Tends to be more holistic, care is more individualized. Midwives monitor the pregnant person and baby’s health and provide education. If there are complications, midwives tend to choose procedures/tools starting with those that will cause the least intervention.
Another factor to consider is the birth place. If you have an ideal birth place in mind, make sure the provider you choose has privileges at that facility. Likewise, if you have chosen your provider, check out the facility where you will give birth. Providers are bound by whatever policies are in place at the birth facility, regardless of their own philosophy of care. Example: in my own birth, my provider told me she wouldn’t restrict any food during my labor, but the facility I birthed in had a hard rule against eating during labor. Additionally, remember to make sure your provider is in network with your insurance and make a note about what coverage your insurance offers for childbirth, and any restrictions (for example, some insurances don't cover home birth).
It’s important to note that each person’s goals for pregnancy and birth are different - there is no right or wrong here! There isn’t a hard line between healthcare practitioners when it comes to models of care. Some midwives are more medically/technologically inclined than others, and some OBs are more holistic than their peers. This is why it’s very important to conduct interviews with potential HCPs. Your mission is to understand their philosophy of care and make sure it aligns with your goals, and to make sure you feel comfortable having them on your team - you want to know they are willing to collaborate with you and make you feel heard and understood.
Some questions to consider asking potential HCPs:
Will I see you at every prenatal visit, or will I see everyone in the practice? Do I get to interview them as well? Do they share your philosophy of care?
How do you feel about pregnancies that last beyond 40 weeks?
What do you think about unmedicated birth?
What is your Cesarean rate?
This person is usually a spouse or romantic partner, but is sometimes a friend or family member. Again, there’s no wrong answer here! You can have as many birth partners as your birth place will allow, but usually it’s a good idea to keep the guest list minimal - and whoever is in the room needs to know that their only job is to support you - not so they can put it in their Instagram story and not so they can brag about being the first one to meet the baby. You are the most important person in that room and anyone you bring in should be there to support you.
Is this person reliable and helpful when I need them under normal circumstances? Would I want them around when I am feeling sick?
How does this person make me feel? Do they understand and support my birth plan? Will their presence enhance my birth experience or will they be a distraction?
Is this person going to promote or disturb the kind of energy or vibe I want in my birthing space?
Am I comfortable with this person seeing me naked/otherwise exposed?
As you can probably guess, I think doulas are great! There’s a doula out there for everyone. Just like healthcare providers, not all doulas think/act alike - and this is a good thing! If you are a super crunchy mama, you probably would want a doula who is also fairly crunchy herself. If you’re a little more mainstream, like me (I like to call it “chewy”), you will probably want someone similar. You want to choose a doula you connect with, feel comfortable around, and who understands your unique situation. Maybe you’re LGBTQ, or a person of color, or you’ve had trouble conceiving, or you have certain cultural or religious practices that will play a part in your pregnancy and birth. This isn’t to say you should only choose a doula whose story matches your own - just that you probably want to feel comfortable sharing these parts of yourself with your doula so they can support you in whatever way you need - and that is not limited to comfort techniques in the birth space.
Some questions you may want to ask a potential doula:
What’s your philosophy of birth? What techniques do you use to support people in labor?
Will we meet prior to my labor? How often? What will we discuss at those meetings? Are you available for questions or concerns between meetings and prior to my birth?
What is your fee and what services does it include?
What happens if you aren’t available to come to my labor?
Other Team Members
These teammates won’t necessarily attend your birth, but they’re still important to have!
Birth classes help you understand the processes of labor and birth, which can make them seem less intimidating. Childbirth educators are a wonderful resource and they love sharing information.
Not just about labor and birth! Comprehensive childbirth classes cover anything from nutrition in pregnancy to anatomy and physiology of pregnancy to postpartum mood disorders.
If you intend to breast- or chestfeed your baby, it’s good to have the name of a trusted lactation consultant in case you run into any issues. You can also take classes prenatally to learn about how to promote success in infant feeding.
Since your baby will be checked over by the pediatrician soon after being born, it’s important to pick this caregiver ahead of time. Asking for recommendations from friends and family is a great way to start the process of selecting a pediatrician!
Whoever you bring onto your team, they should know what your goals are and understand what their role in helping you achieve them will be. This is where your birth plan comes in...and we’ll learn more about that soon!
Have you already picked your birth partner? Send them over to this post and have them learn all about how they can support you during labor and birth. (Psst...there’s a free printable cheat sheet at the end!)