You’ve just received a positive pregnancy test result. Once the excitement has worn off, one of the first calls most women make is to their family physician or obstetrician to schedule their first prenatal care appointment. This isn’t too surprising to hear, given that the vast majority of births in Alberta are physician-attended, in hospitals.
However, there aspects of prenatal care, labour, delivery, and postpartum care that many women don’t know about, often until it’s too late.
To help put you back in the driver’s seat and firmly in control of your pregnancy, here is some clarification on your options for maternity care in Calgary.
When it Comes to Maternity Care, You Have Choices
Most women assume that their family doctor or OB are their only choices for maternity care, and many are surprised to hear that neither will be their sole care provider for the duration of their pregnancy. Wait, what?
Historically, family physicians or general practitioners saw to maternity care and delivered babies. However, with the exception of some remote communities, this is no longer common practice. Today, family doctors generally follow their patients and provide prenatal care until 24 weeks or so, before referring them to an obstetrician. They will continue prenatal care for the duration of the pregnancy.
Obstetricians are highly trained general practitioners who then pursue a 5-year specialization in obstetrics. They do not typically take on patients before 24 weeks, unless the pregnancy is considered high risk.
When you go into labour, it will be your obstetrician or on-call doctor who will deliver your baby. Afterward, your postpartum care will be transferred back to your family doctor for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
But this scenario isn’t your only option.
Maternity Care Clinics
As an alternative to dividing your car between your family doctor and an obstetrician who may or may not be the one who ends up delivering your baby, women have the option to choose a maternity care clinic instead.
A maternity care clinic is a focused medical practice specializing in caring for women and babies during pregnancy, labour, delivery, and the six weeks after birth. These practices generally comprise a team of doctors, nurses, and other support staff who deal only with maternity care.
Unlike receiving care from a combination of GP and OB, there is no need to transfer care with a maternity care clinic. The doctors you meet on day one will be the same doctors who will eventually deliver your baby; the nurses who monitored your growth will be the same ones who observe how your baby is growing in the weeks following delivery.
A less common maternity care alternative is a midwifery clinic. Midwives are not doctors; however, they are highly trained medical professionals who can provide maternity care and deliver babies.
If a home birth is something that you have considered, a midwife is the only professional licensed to assist with deliveries outside of a clinic or hospital setting.
Whatever route you decide you go, know that it is your choice, and no matter what you decide, skilled medical professionals will be watching you each step of the way, ensuring both mom and baby are healthy.