Will You Need to See an Obstetrician During Your Pregnancy?

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An obstetrician is a specialist expert in pregnancy, labour and birth. They work in both the public and private medical sectors, though their roles may be slightly different across the two. How vital is the role of an obstetrician in pregnancy, and when will you need to make an appointment to see one?

What's the difference between an obstetrician and a midwife?

Obstetricians and midwives are both highly qualified medical professionals, but their credentials and roles are slightly different. Midwives are usually nurses, though some are specifically trained in midwifery alone, and provide all-around holistic care to both parent and baby through pregnancy, labour and the antenatal period. Obstetricians are doctors who have chosen to specialise in the field of obstetrics, and work mostly with high-risk pregnancies. It's also an obstetrician who will perform surgical interventions or procedures during gestation and labour.

Who needs to see an obstetrician during pregnancy?

If your pregnancy is considered to be of higher than usual risk, an obstetrician will be involved in your care throughout. Factors that can lead to a pregnancy being considered 'high-risk' include (though are not limited to):

  • If you're over the age of 35, particularly if this is your first pregnancy
  • If you've smoked, drunk more than a small amount of alcohol or used other risk-increasing substances while pregnant
  • If you have high blood pressure, a thyroid condition, asthma, epilepsy or one of several other chronic health conditions
  • If you develop a complication during pregnancy, such as rhesus sensitisation or a non-standard placental position
  • If you have a history of preeclampsia, premature labour, miscarriage or other complications

Will an obstetrician be present during the birth?

If you need a caesarean section, either pre-planned or as an emergency procedure, it will be an obstetrician who performs it. An obstetrician will also intervene if there are any complications during birth, such as those caused by a breech presentation or a twisted umbilical cord. Otherwise, in most public hospitals, obstetricians aren't routinely present for all births, though they are always on-call and will be available if necessary.

Does the role of an obstetrician differ in the private sector?

If you've chosen to go with a private obstetrician, they're likely to take on more of the role performed by midwives in other healthcare settings. This means you'll see them for more of your antenatal and postnatal checks, and it may be your obstetrician who carries out your ultrasounds and other gestational check-ups. You'll still have access to a midwife as well, and midwives are more likely to carry out postnatal home visits.

For more information, reach out to a local obstetrician.