When it comes to the care of your pregnant self (and your baby), you’ll want to turn to a support system that you feel comfortable with. It’s different for each woman – you have to decide who to invite along on your journey.
Your family doctor could be the professional that sees you through your pregnancy. Remember, though, that some family doctors deliver babies, and some don’t, depending on where you live and the particular focus of your family doctor. But, if your pregnancy is considered “low-risk,” a family doctor – whether your own or if you are referred to another – is a valuable source of support. “The group of family doctors I work with does part family practice and part low-risk obstetrics, and patients come to us from family doctors who don’t do any prenatal care,” says Heather Taylor, a family doctor in Calgary.
In Canada, family doctors do refer patients to obstetricians when the pregnancy is considered high-risk.
High-risk pregnancies include having twins, highblood pressure while pregnant, a history of pre-term delivery or other medical issues, says Dr. Taylor. In these scenarios, an obstetrician – a specialist – would be in charge of monitoring your pregnancy. You’ll also want to consider the type of birth you anticipate or hope to have. “If you need a C-section for some reason or you want an elective C-section you would go to an obstetrician. Obstetricians are surgeons, family doctors are not,” says Dr. Taylor.
More and more, pregnant women in Canada are choosing a midwife to handle their pregnancy, which is possible only if your pregnancy is considered low-risk. If you’re considering seeking out a midwife you’ll need to check your province’s regulations and see if the services are covered. Many provinces do fund midwifery, though, in Ontario, for example, you can’t see both a family doctor and a midwife, says Nathalie Quevillon-Dussault, a midwife who works at the Community Midwives of Thunder Bay. “In Ontario, midwives are considered primary healthcare providers, so a woman who finds out she’s pregnant can call a midwife right away and we would provide not only supportive care, but all of her prenatal care as well. The midwife also provides care for mom and baby until the baby is six weeks old.” Midwives can usually offer both homebirth and hospital birth, says Quevillon-Dussault. “It’s really a woman’s decision.”
Doula services are pay-for, but they are becoming more popular. What is the role of a doula? A doula supports the mom during labour in ways that aren’t medicalized, says Alison Ritchie, a doula in Winnipeg. “A doula has several pre-labour visits with the expectant family and builds a relationship with them.” Come labour time, then, the doula supports the mom spiritually and physically – she can move mom into different positions while she’s in labour – and she also supports the dad, says Ritchie. Women sometimes feel like they don’t have control in their labour and they’re told what they have to do and aren’t always given choices, says Ritchie. A doula is an advocate, then, a steady presence during the vulnerable process of labour and delivery.
If you do an Internet search for pregnancy classes in your region, you’ll likely find something that suits your taste – an eight-week prenatal class held through a hospital, prenatal yoga classes or breastfeeding lessons.
If you want to delve into the spiritual and emotional sides of being pregnant, you could look into Sacred Pregnancy classes. These classes “are pregnancy support. They bring back the age-old tradition of women sitting together during pregnancy and getting empowered and connected with one another,” says Alison Ritchie, one of a few practitioners in Canada currently trained to teach these classes. “It’s an opportunity to grow leaps and bounds and to give yourself a good idea of who you want to be as a mother.”
Originally published in ParentsCanada Best Wishes, Fall 2014.