Choosing a Caregiver: What You Need to Know



Why is choosing a caregiver one of the most important maternity decisions I will make?

How will my choice of caregiver influence where I can give birth?

What are important considerations when choosing a maternity caregiver?

What are some insufficient reasons for choosing a caregiver?

How do types of caregivers differ from one another?

What if I change my mind and want to switch to another caregiver?



Why is choosing a caregiver one of the most important maternity decisions I will make?

Early in your pregnancy, it is important to make thoughtful decisions about who will be your caregiver and where you plan to give birth. These major decisions can influence:
  • the care that you receive and the effects of that care
  • the quality of your relationship with your main and other caregivers
  • the amount of information you receive
  • the choices and options you will have, particularly during your labor and birth
  • the degree to which you are involved with decisions about your care.
If you are a well and healthy childbearing woman (as are most pregnant women in the U.S.), you can choose a midwife or a doctor as your maternity caregiver. Options: Caregiver will help you learn about the midwifery model of care and the medical model of care, as well as different kinds of midwives and doctors who provide maternity care. This and other pages in this section can help you find the right caregiver for you.

It may take some time and energy to find the right caregiver and birth setting. These important decisions are well worth the effort.

How will my choice of caregiver influence where I can give birth?

Caregivers and birth settings usually go hand in hand. As you explore your different options, you will want to decide on a caregiver who practices in a birth setting that will meet your needs. For example, if you decide that you would like to work with a physician, you will probably be limited to giving birth at a hospital. If you choose to work with a midwife, you may have more options since midwives practice in hospitals, birth centers, and homes. Moreover, there may be important differences among hospitals and among birth centers. When choosing a caregiver, it is also important to think about choosing a birth setting that is right for you.

What are important considerations when choosing a maternity caregiver?

The following are signs of an excellent choice of maternity caregiver:
  • caregiver's practices are consistent with the best available research about safe and effective care
  • caregiver's practices work with the physiology of pregnancy and birth — your body is finely tuned to do this work; some actions support this work, while others interfere with it
  • the two of you are able to develop a strong relationship with good communication and mutual trust and respect
  • the caregiver's personal style is compatible with your needs, preferences, and values.

What are some insufficient reasons for choosing a caregiver?

It is not wise to select a caregiver solely because:
  • that person practices near your home or workplace — convenience is nice, but you may need to travel further to find the right person
  • you know someone who worked with that person — even if recommended by a friend or relative, you will want to be sure that a maternity caregiver's style will meet your needs and values and reflects the best available research
  • that person is a woman, or a man — if you have a preference for caregiver gender, you will want to be sure that that person's maternity philosophy and style of practice match well with your needs and values and with the best available research
  • that person has been your provider for well-woman or primary care — you will want to learn about that person's maternity philosophy and style of practice before making your decision.

How do types of caregivers differ from one another?

In making your decision, keep in mind that caregivers vary in important ways:
  • philosophy of birth and model of care
  • style of practice — this includes the amount of time spent with you, interest in sharing information and involving you in decision-making, and preferences for use of interventions
  • birth settings — most caregivers work at one or two sites, and few offer the full range of hospital, out-of-hospital birth center, and home birth.
  • whether specific types of caregivers are available in your area
  • whether your insurance will cover their services.

What if I change my mind and want to switch to another caregiver?

As time goes on, you will learn more about your needs and about the caregiver and birth setting that you have chosen. If you have concerns and have not been able to resolve them through open and respectful communication, you may begin to wonder if you have made the right choice(s). Do not hesitate to explore other options. Even if it is late in your pregnancy, you can switch if:
  • you have enough time to explore options and find a situation that you believe will work better for you
  • the new caregiver or setting has no policies that prevent you from making this change at that time in your pregnancy
  • your insurance will cover the new arrangements, or you are willing and able to pay out of pocket.
You may have to change your caregiver and/or birth setting to get what you want.


Next >
Options: Caregiver

Most recent page update: 2/28/2011


© 2014 National Partnership for Women & Families. All rights reserved.

Founded in 1918, Childbirth Connection has joined forces with and become a core program of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Together, these two women's health powerhouses are transforming maternity care in the United States.
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