Types of Doctors for Labor and Delivery


Many doctors with different specialties can assist with your labor and delivery. When making an informed decision, sometimes the best way to find the right doctor is through word of mouth.
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Once you find out you’re pregnant, the decision making begins.
You’ll need to choose the doctor who will oversee your pregnancy and eventually deliver your baby. The doctor you choose will have a big role throughout your pregnancy. It’s important that you make an informed decision.
Several types of doctors are medically trained to deliver your baby when the time comes. You can also choose a midwife or doula. All midwives undergo specific training and get licensed, but not all doulas go through a certification process.
In this article, we will focus on board certified doctors. Family practitioners and obstetrician-gynecologists, or OB-GYNs, are some of the most popular medically trained doctors who can deliver your baby.
You should keep certain factors in mind, such as getting the best doctor if you have a high risk of experiencing complications. You want to make sure you have the most highly trained doctor for your specific pregnancy.

Family practitioners

Family practitioners
Family practitioners are primary care doctors. They care for a broad spectrum of medical conditions, from earaches in children to heart failure in older adults.
Family practitioners usually have 3 years of training beyond medical school. They generally have a broad range of knowledge on a variety of different disciplines of medicine.
Although the training and certification process for most family practitioners is very similar, some choose to emphasize obstetrics and undergo additional training.
In rural areas, there may be no obstetric specialist nearby, or there may be only a few to choose from. It’s common for family practitioners in rural areas to perform most deliveries.
However, some family practitioners do practice and deliver babies in major urban or university centers as well. They can take care of you during and after your pregnancy in addition to delivering your baby.
Family practitioners mostly care for people with low-risk pregnancies. They refer people with significant pregnancy concerns to an OB-GYN.
Most family practitioners don’t perform cesarean deliveries. Some family practitioners are experienced in forceps and vacuum deliveries. Others prefer to refer those who need these types of deliveries to specialists.
The experience of family practitioners delivering babies varies widely. Be sure to discuss these issues with your doctor if you’re considering a family practitioner for your obstetric care. Ask questions about your family practitioner’s training and experience in obstetrics.
Also ask about their experience in handling emergencies and performing cesarean deliveries, and whether an OB-GYN is available for backup.
Some people prefer their family practitioner because of the continuity of care. The experience of a doctor who knows your history and has previously treated you can be an advantage.
Potential disadvantages include less training in obstetrics and the possible need to call in another practitioner to help with a complication or emergency.
Though family practitioners are medically trained to deliver babies, it’s only a small part of their training. You may have to see a specialist if certain problems arise.

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Most people in the United States choose to have their babies delivered by an OB-GYN. OB-GYNs are doctors who have completed 4 years of training in the field of obstetrics and gynecology.
These doctors are trained to provide a wide range of female reproductive healthcare services, including routine to complicated obstetrics. Their main focus is on pregnancy and female health concerns.
Most OB-GYNs undergo rigorous training. They’re required to be board certified to practice in the United States. OB-GYNs can provide specialized care that may not be available from non-obstetric specialists.
These specialist doctors are equipped to deal with the entire range of pregnancies, from uncomplicated, low-risk deliveries to many kinds of high-risk deliveries.
If your doctor determines your pregnancy is high risk, find a board certified OB-GYN to handle your pregnancy.

Maternal-fetal medicine specialist

Maternal-fetal medicine specialist
Maternal-fetal medicine is a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology. Maternal-fetal medicine doctors are sometimes called perinatologists.
In addition to completing traditional medical school, maternal-fetal medicine doctors have completed a 4-year standard training program in obstetrics and gynecology.
They also have completed an extra 2 to 3 years of specialized training in dealing with problem or high-risk pregnancies. In the United States, they will be board certified in both specialties.
Maternal-fetal medicine specialists offer specialized care for pregnant people and their fetuses. They’re trained to help when pregnancies are not routine. Special cases can include:
twin or multiple births
chronic health issues
a fetus with abnormal growth
They can start treatment even before your baby is born if they find a problem during your pregnancy.
Because of the extensive training required, the number of maternal-fetal medicine specialists in the United States is limited.
Maternal-fetal medicine specialists are trained to deal with the highest-risk pregnancies.
For the most part, they practice in either academic centers affiliated with medical schools or other large tertiary care facilities. They generally partner with multiple healthcare professionals to consult, co-manage, or directly care for you and your baby before, during, and after pregnancy.
They perform specialized procedures in addition to ultrasound and amniocentesis. They also generally provide consultation to community obstetricians and family practitioners for pregnancies with complex issues. These may include:
serious medical illnesses
twin or multiple births
If you don’t have any high-risk factors, you usually don’t need care by these subspecialists.

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How we reviewed this article:
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Jun 20, 2023
Written By
The Healthline Editorial Team
Edited By
John Bassham
Copy Edited By
Sara Giusti
Aug 17, 2021
Medically Reviewed By
Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
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