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The best time to choose who will deliver your baby is before you conceive…This is proactive prohealthy fetus health care. Your doctor will act as a gatekeeper, providing access to such things as…

  • The hospitals where you can deliver
  • The types of medications available to you
  • The types of ultrasounds and other diagnostic techniques available to you
  • Techniques that can be used to monitor your baby during delivery
  • Immediate care options available to your baby

The doctor you choose will also control the choice of other doctors you can see. With managed care insurance, for example, you must go through your primary care doctor to get a referral to a specialist. Now that you have a solid understanding of how important your choice of doctor is, it’s helpful to understand that doctors who handle prenatal care and deliver babies fall into three categories: generalists, specialists, and subspecialists.

Here’s what these labels mean.

Generalist = Family Practice Doctor. A family practice doctor has been trained in general medicine and has specialized training in such primary care areas as obstetrics or pediatrics. Usually, a family physician can treat the healthcare needs of both the adults and children in your family. One of the benefits of working with a family practice doctor is that he will understand you as a “whole patient” and will provide continuity of care to you before, during, and after childbirth and will have a stake in your baby’s wellbeing before and after birth. On the other hand, a family practitioner will not have the extensive specialized experience with preconception, pregnancy, and delivery that an obstetrician will have. This means a family practice doctor should be affiliated with a specialist in case of an emergency such as an operative delivery via forceps, vacuum extraction, or cesarean section.

Specialist = Obstetrician. An obstetrician, or OB/GYN, has completed a residency program in obstetrics and gynecology and should be board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. An OB/GYN handles every aspect of a woman’s reproductive health care, from issues that arise during puberty to post-menopausal care. Because of an obstetrician’s extensive background and experience, most women choose this kind of doctor for their prenatal care.

A board-certified OB/GYN would be a safe choice for delivering your baby at a specialty or subspecialty hospital.

Subspecialists = Gynecologic Oncologist, Reproductive Endocrinologist, and Perinatologist. Within the specialty of obstetrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has established three subspecialties:

  • A gynecologic oncologist treats gynecologic cancers, including cancer of the ovary, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, or placenta.
  • A reproductive endocrinologist treats hormonal functioning as well as infertility issues.
  • A perinatologist, a doctor of maternal and fetal medicine, is basically a specialist’s specialist who cares for high-risk women and their unborn babies. ACOG recommends that a perinatologist be consulted for the treatment of certain conditions in pregnancy. A perinatologist would be a safe choice for delivering your high-high-risk baby at a specialty or subspecialty hospital.