Updated on May 3, 2016
Ten Differences in Prenatal Care with a Midwife
For my pregnancy with The Heir I opted for prenatal care with a group of physicians. There were about ten GPs who focused on prenatal care and birth in the group, and over the course of my pregnancy I saw a handful of them through various appointments. There was nothing wrong with the care I received, and I had no complaints about my birthing experience. Nevertheless, when I found out I was pregnant with Petit Prince, I wanted to try something different. I decided to try to get a midwife. Now, where I am, access to midwifery care is quite limited. It can be challenging to get in with a midwife, and there’s really no opportunity to choose who you get. I had been told by friends who had midwifery care for their pregnancies to fill out intake forms for every midwifery group in the city in the hopes that just one of them would be able to take me on. So there I was, the pregnancy test barely dry, writing up a thoughtful paragraph about why I wanted midwifery care so I could apply to every single midwifery group in and around Calgary. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from any of them, so imagine my surprise when I got a call the very next day. I officially had a midwife (actually I had two, but more on that later). To say my experience with midwives was amazing would be an understatement. I’d have more babies just to spend more time with my midwives. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t go that far, but they were pretty amazing. Needless to say, prenatal care with a midwife was different than it was with the group of physicians I’d seen while pregnant with The Heir. Yes, some things were the same, but a lot of things were different! Here are ten ways that my prenatal care with a midwife was different than my prenatal care with a doctor.
1. Free parking. I know this isn’t exactly relevant to the care I received, but gosh darn it, not having to pay $5 to park every time you have a prenatal check up is pretty nice. My midwives’ practice was located at the Arbour Birth Centre. The birth centre looks like a regular house with the birthing rooms on the main level, and the midwifery practice space is in the basement. There was ample free street parking right beside the birth centre, and there was a small free parking lot right out front.
2. Appointments were on time. Want to know how many times my prenatal appointments with the doctor started on time? Zero. Not once. I waited upwards of 20 to 30 minutes every time I had an appointment during my pregnancy with The Heir. One time, they were over an hour late (and yes, I had to go out and pay for more parking). Heaven forbid I show up so much as a minute late, but the doctors were not required to be punctual AT ALL. My midwives, on the other hand, were on time. If my appointment started at 10:15am, they were coming to get me from the waiting room at 10:15am. It was brilliant. Best of all, it allowed me to arrange care for The Heir if I didn’t want to bring him with me, and not have to worry about my appointment running too late.
3. Longer appointments. My midwives scheduled 45 minutes to an hour for each prenatal appointment. Yes, 45 minutes to an hour. Unlike the doctors that squeezed each appointment into a 10 minute window, the midwives took their time. I loved having long appointments. There was ample time to talk about whatever I needed to talk about. We could go over test results in detail, I could ask all the questions that popped into my head, we could even just chat about pregnancy in general or concerns/anxiety I had about the birth itself. There was no rush with the midwives. It made me feel like they really cared, and it allowed me to get to know them quite well.
4. Comfortable office. The midwifery practice space where I had my prenatal appointments was lovely. The waiting area was like a living room. They had a library where you could sign out books about birth and breastfeeding, a play area for the older siblings to enjoy, and big comfortable couches to relax while you waited for you appointment time. Once in the “exam room” (if you can even call it that), there were cozy chairs and cushions, and some toys for the siblings. It felt more like meeting a friend for a chat than seeing a doctor in a sterile clinical environment.
5. I had two midwives. There were two midwives responsible for my prenatal care. Instead of ten different physicians coming and going, there were just two midwives. Each of my midwives was quite different, and I loved that. One midwife had been practicing for over thirty years and was trained in the UK. She was the “all business” midwife. She tended to err on the side of caution with most things and was less chit chatty. My other midwife had been practicing for five years and was trained in Seattle. She was the “Earth mother” midwife. She was more relaxed about things, and was always very calm and reassuring.
6. One of MY midwives would be at the birth. It was pretty much guaranteed that one of my two midwives would be with me for the birth of Petit Prince. They alternated weeks on call for deliveries and weeks in the office for appointments. Since they were limited in the number of patients they were able to take on, the odds were pretty darned good that one of them would be available when I went into labour. And that’s exactly what happened when labour started up with Petit Prince. It was the “Earth mother” midwife who was on call when I went into labour, and she’s the one that caught Petit Prince. When I was in labour with The Heir, I saw three different doctors. The first two were from the practice that was responsible for my prenatal care, though I’d never met either of them before that day. The third was not from the same practice, and I met her for the first time when I was pushing.
7. They came to me. This was a big one for me. If ever there was a reason to be concerned during my pregnancy, all I had to do was call. If an appointment or check in was warranted, they would come to me. This only happened once during my pregnancy with Petit Prince, but in that moment I was so glad I had a midwife. When I was about 14 weeks pregnant I slipped on the stairs and fell. It was really more of a slide down three stairs, but it happened. It wasn’t that bad, but I landed on my lower back and I panicked. I could barely get the words out when I called my midwife’s office to tell her what had happened. Instead of asking me to come in, she told me to try to relax and remain calm, and then she came to me. Yes, she came to my house to check me over. She found baby’s heart beat with the doppler and gave me the once over, and all was well.
8. I could page them, anytime. At my very first appointment with my midwives, they gave me their pager number. If something happened, I could page them, day or night, and they would call me right back. Obviously I wasn’t supposed to page them in the middle of the night unless it was fairly urgent, but the ability to contact them when and if I needed to and to know that they’d return my page right away was awesome. In fact, it was very useful for confirming test results and ultrasound results as needed (and my midwife encouraged me to page her for those types of results a few times). Of course, I also paged my midwife when my water broke at 3am and we had a nice little chat when she called me back just a minute later.
9. Encouraged chiropractic care. If there was one thing that saved me during my pregnancy with Petit Prince, it would be my chiropractor (this deserves its own post, and I will be writing one soon). I had pubic symphysis dysfunction in both of my pregnancies. That’s when you get that really awful pain in your pelvis/crotch that is excruciating when you try to get in or out of the bed/car, walk up stairs, lift your leg to get into the bath, put on pants… If you’ve experienced this, you know how awful it is. With my first pregnancy, the doctor suggested I get a cumbersome pregnancy support belt or tie a scarf around my hips to deal with the symptoms. It got so bad towards the end of my pregnancy with The Heir, that I actually had to stop half way up the stairs crying in pain because I just couldn’t lift my legs up enough to go any further. During my pregnancy with Petit Prince, my midwives encouraged me to see a chiropractor that specializes in pregnancy. That’s exactly what I did, and you know what? Despite the pain starting much earlier in this pregnancy, it never became as severe or painful as it was the first time around. Seeing a chiropractor saved me from so much pain, and my midwives not only supported my choice to see a chiropractor, but encouraged me to seek out that type of care. I had no idea that seeing a chiropractor during pregnancy was even an option when I was pregnant with The Heir!
10. Less poking and prodding. I don’t know about you, but when I’m hugely pregnant and uncomfortable, the last thing I want is for someone to be getting all up in my cervix to check things out just for kicks. With my first pregnancy, there were quite a few appointments where the doctors needed to check things out. At around 28 weeks they got all up in there to confirm that baby was head down. Then from 36 weeks onwards, they were all up in there to see if I was dilated yet and how far dilated I was (spoiler alert: I was never dilated at all until I was actually in labour). One of those times they also did the good old GBS swab. With the midwives, none of that happened. My midwives weren’t poking around in there until I was in active labour. They could tell baby’s position just from palpating my belly and didn’t need to confirm it with a vaginal exam. They didn’t see any reason to check on how dilated I was at my 36 through 38 week appointments because I wasn’t showing signs of labour. For the GBS swab, they had me do it myself. In all fairness, it is a little awkward to do the GBS swab yourself when you’ve got 8.5 months of pregnancy belly in the way, but still! It was just nice to not feel like a science experiment at every appointment.
There you have it! Those are ten of the ways that my prenatal care with midwives was different than my prenatal care with doctors! Have you opted for different models of care from one pregnancy to the next? What differences did you experience?