Rene I. Luna, M.D., P.A.

What is the Difference Between a Midwife and an OB-GYN?

Choosing the right care provider for pregnancy and childbirth is a crucial decision for expectant parents. Two common types of providers are midwives and OB-GYNs (obstetrician-gynecologists). Understanding the differences between these professionals can help you make an informed choice that aligns with your healthcare needs and birth preferences.

Definition and Roles


A midwife is a healthcare professional specializing in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and well-woman care. There are several types of midwives, including Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs), Certified Midwives (CMs), Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs), and Lay Midwives. Each type has specific training and certification requirements, but all midwives are trained to support women through normal, low-risk pregnancies and deliveries.


An OB-GYN is a physician who specializes in obstetrics (pregnancy and childbirth) and gynecology (female reproductive health). OB-GYNs undergo extensive medical training, including medical school and residency, to provide comprehensive care for low-risk and high-risk pregnancies and a wide range of gynecological services.

Education and Training


  • Midwives typically complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field and then undergo specialized training in midwifery.
  • Certification varies by type of midwife. For example, CNMs are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).
  • Midwives must continue education to maintain their certifications and stay current with the best maternal and reproductive health practices.


  • • OB-GYNs complete a four-year medical degree followed by a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology.
  • • After residency, OB-GYNs obtain board certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG).
  • • OB-GYNs must participate in continuing medical education to keep their skills and knowledge current.

Approach to Care


  • Midwives often emphasize a holistic, patient-centered approach, supporting natural childbirth and minimal medical intervention.
  • Midwives provide care in various settings, including home births, birthing centers, and hospitals.
  • They prioritize prenatal education, emotional support, and empowering women to have positive birth experiences.


  • OB-GYNs practice a medical model of care with a strong focus on managing high-risk pregnancies and performing surgical interventions when necessary.
  • OB-GYNs primarily provide care in hospitals and clinics.
  • They offer comprehensive care for both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies, including surgical procedures such as C-sections.

Services Provided


  • • Regular check-ups, screenings, and prenatal education.
  • • Assistance with natural childbirth, including pain management and emotional support.
  • • Follow-up visits are needed to ensure the health of the mother and baby.
  • • Routine gynecological exams, family planning, and menopausal care.


  • Monitoring and managing both routine and high-risk pregnancies.
  • Capability to perform C-sections and other necessary surgeries.
  • Gynecological exams, treatment of reproductive health issues, family planning, and menopause management.

Choosing the Right Provider

When deciding between a midwife and an OB-GYN, consider the following factors:

  • If you have a high-risk pregnancy, an OB-GYN may be better equipped to manage your care.
  • If you prefer a natural birth with minimal intervention, a midwife might be a better fit.
  • Ensure that your chosen provider is available and accessible within your healthcare network.

Benefits and Limitations

  • Midwives: Offer a personalized, low-intervention approach but may not be equipped to handle high-risk situations or perform surgeries.
  • OB-GYNs: Provide comprehensive care for all pregnancy types, including high-risk cases, but may have a more medicalized approach to childbirth.

Understanding the differences between midwives and OB-GYNs can help you make a choice that best suits your needs and preferences for pregnancy and childbirth care. Both types of providers play vital roles in ensuring the health and well-being of mothers and babies. Consult healthcare professionals to discuss your options and create a birth plan that aligns with your goals.