This is a quick guide to the main health professionals who can provide care and support in pregnancy, birth and with your new baby.
Your midwife will see you throughout your pregnancy, usually at a community clinic. Their role is to check your health as your pregnancy progresses, to monitor your baby, to arrange your ultrasound scans and to make any referrals to the hospital if there are any concerns.
Community midwives also attend homebirths and see you after your baby has been born – they can call in to see you at home for around 10 days.
Hospital midwives provide care throughout labour and on the postnatal ward, as well as on the antenatal ward for women who need to be admitted into hospital during pregnancy.
Their role is to provide support, reassurance and encouragement; to assess your health; to listen to your baby’s heartbeat and to care for you and your baby during your time on the maternity ward.
These are fully qualified, self-employed midwives who work outside of the NHS – they provide antenatal care, postnatal care plus support, reassurance and encouragement during labour and birth. They are able to provide continuity of care throughout your pregnancy, your labour and during the early days with your baby.
An obstetrician is a doctor who specialises in pregnancy and childbirth – if your pregnancy and labour are straight-forward and uncomplicated you probably won’t need to see one. You may need to see an obstetrician during pregnancy if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if your pregnancy is classified as high-risk.
An obstetrician will need to be involved in the birth of your baby if you have a caesarean birth or you require an intervention such as forceps or ventouse.
This is a doctor who specialises in providing pain relief in labour and for obstetric procedures. An anaesthetist will administer spinal and epidural anaethesia for caesareans, birth by forceps and any procedure that needs to take place in an operating theatre.
This is a medical professional who specialises in ultrasound scans – they will be responsible for your ultrasound scans during your pregnancy.
A paediatrician is a doctor who specialises in treating children. You could see a paediatrician during your pregnancy if there are concerns about your baby, who may need be assessed/treated by a paediatrician when they are born.
Your baby may also be referred to a paediatrician if there are any concerns or potential issues which need to be examined/treated.
Health visitors are nurses or midwives with additional training – they specialise in the health of preschool children and their families so they can work with you from the end of your pregnancy until your child is 5 years old. Health visitors can provide individual support and clinics, as well as developmental checks and any referrals.
A birth doula is a professional birth partner who provides support to expectant parents during pregnancy and throughout the birth.
A postnatal doula provides professional and practical support for new parents.