June 20, 2022

Midwives, OB/GYNs, Perinatologists, MFMs: What's the difference? Episode #103

Midwives, OB/GYNs, Perinatologists, MFMs: What's the difference? Episode #103

What is the difference between midwives, OB/GYNs, and high risk MFM specilaits? What about douals. and labor coaches?  Is a midwive like an OB/GYN?  Isn't a midwife just a doula? What are the differences between each?    According...

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

What is the difference between midwives, OB/GYNs, and high risk MFM specilaits? What about douals. and labor coaches?  Is a midwive like an OB/GYN?  Isn't a midwife just a doula? What are the differences between each? 


According the the American College of Midwives the definition of midwifery is:

"Midwifery as practiced by certified nurse-midwives (CNMs®) and certified midwives (CMs®) encompasses a full range of primary health care services for women from adolescence beyond menopause. These services include the independent provision of primary care, gynecologic and family planning services, preconception care, care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, care of the normal newborn during the first 28 days of life, and treatment of male partners for sexually transmitted infections. Midwives provide initial and ongoing comprehensive assessment, diagnosis and treatment. They conduct physical examinations; prescribe medications including controlled substances and contraceptive methods; admit, manage and discharge patients; order and interpret laboratory and diagnostic tests and order the use of medical devices. Midwifery care also includes health promotion, disease prevention, and individualized wellness education and counseling. These services are provided in partnership with women and families in diverse settings such as ambulatory care clinics, private offices, community and public health systems, homes, hospitals and birth centers."


The definition of an OB/GYN from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist is:

"Ob-gyns are doctors who have special training and education in women’s health care. They are dedicated to the medical and surgical care of women’s health throughout the lifespan.

Ob-gyns who are members of ACOG are called Fellows or Junior Fellows. ACOG Fellows are ob-gyns who are board certified in obstetrics, gynecology, or both. They are identified by the initials FACOG after their name. ACOG Junior Fellows are ob-gyn residents or recent graduates of an approved residency program and not yet board certified.

Some ob-gyns have extra training in a focused area of women’s health care. These areas include:

  • Female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (focused on pelvic floor disorders, including pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence, and pelvic pain)

  • Gynecologic oncology (focused on cancers of the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, and vulva)

  • Maternal-fetal medicine (focused on high-risk pregnancies)

  • Reproductive endocrinology and infertility (focused on the hormones of the reproductive system and helping women who have problems getting pregnant)"


The defintion of a doula or a labor coach from the Doulas of North America is:

"A [doula] is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informationl support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her ahieve the healtiest, most satifying expericne possible."


An MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine) specilaist is: 

"Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) physicians are high-risk pregnancy experts, specializing in the un-routine. For moms-to-be with chronic health problems, we work with other specialists in an office or hospital setting to keep mom healthy as her body changes and her baby grows. We also care for moms who face unexpected problems that develop during pregnancy, such as early labor, bleeding, or high blood pressure. We’re the go-to for moms who arrive in the hospital while they are pregnant for any reason, whether after an accident or at the onset of a kidney infection. In other cases, it’s the baby who faces the un-routine. If we find birth defects or growth problems, we can start treatment before birth, providing monitoring, blood transfusions and surgery to support babies with the best possible care until they are ready to arrive in the world.


A maternal-fetal medicine sub-specialist is an obstetrician/gynecologist who has completed 4 years of Ob/Gyn training followed by 2-3 years of additional education and clinical experience to develop specialized skills to help both the mom and baby before and during an un-routine pregnancy. Our training includes both medical treatment and complex procedures for moms and babies. We are high-risk pregnancy experts.

Our extra training enables us to conduct and interpret research on new approaches for pregnancy problems. Through educational courses, development of clinical protocols, and research, we share our knowledge of optimal care for complicated pregnancies with others. Our overarching goal is to improve outcomes for moms and babies.

Maternal-Fetal Medicine physicians partner with multiple caregivers to consult, co-manage or care directly for complicated situations, both before, during and after pregnancy. We know it takes a team --starting with the mother and her family--to navigate the un-routine and achieve the best possible outcome.

When should I see an MFM Specialist?

MFM specialists treat two patients at the same time. We partner with the mom-to-be, her family, and her medical team to navigate the un-routine and achieve the best possible outcome. We see families who have experienced un-routine pregnancies in the past, mothers with chronic health conditions, and women who develop unexpected problems during their pregnancy. Learn More"


We hope you enjoyed our podcast about how each of these important aspects of childbirth and birthing medicine are uniquley beneficial in the field of reporduction.  As alwasys we'd love to get your feedback. Please email us at info@maternalresoures.org or visit our podcast website to leave a comment or feedback regarding this or any episode. 


One final comment, Kristin mentions incluidng the Muni Train information fo anyone who wants to check out what part of the San Francisoc train system looks like. You can find it here



Our practice website can be found at:

Maternal Resources: https://www.maternalresources.org/

Remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.  Please consider leaving us a review. 

Our Social Channels are as follows

Twitter: https://twitter.com/integrativeob
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/maternalresources
IG: https://www.instagram.com/integrativeobgyn/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IntegrativeOB