What's The Difference Between A Midwife And An OB/GYN?

90% of births in the U.S. are supervised by physicians, which means that OB/GYNs remain the go-to choice for pregnant women in the United States. However, the decision to have your baby delivered by OB/GYN or midwife is a highly personal decision. In order to pick the right type of professional for your pregnancy, you must first understand the differences. 


Both midwives and OB/GYNs are medically trained and educated. OB/GYNs are doctors who have gone through 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency and (often) 3 years of fellowship training in a specialization. Midwives typically start off as nurses with 4 years of college education and a bachelor's degree. To become a midwife, an interested candidate must go back to school for their master's degree, which takes a further 2 or 3 years.  


Midwives are experts in performing normal deliveries, while OB/GYNs are trained to handle delivery in all circumstances. During their training, OB/GYNs see a variety of health problems and rare conditions that can cause complications when babies are delivered. Midwives are not as trained to deal with these complications, and are in fact not legally permitted to deliver babies who require special interventions like C-sections, vacuums and forceps. 

Medical Philosophies and Practices

OB/GYNs rely on the latest technologies and medical techniques to help deliver babies safely, while midwives rely on natural birth techniques. Despite these differences, the medical outcomes for babies delivered by OB/GYNs and midwives remain about the same.  

Places of Practice

OB/GYNs work almost exclusively in professional medical settings. While midwives also work in professional medical settings, midwives are permitted to deliver babies in private residences for mothers who desire to have their babies at home.

How to Pick Which One Is Right For You

When trying to choose the best type of medical professional for your delivery, one of the first things to consider is whether or not you're experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. OB/GYNs are licensed to perform life-saving medical procedures like emergency C-sections, and are highly experienced with deliveries of high-risk pregnancies. If your pregnancy is high-risk for any reason, an OB/GYN may be the best fit for you.

If your pregnancy is proceeding normally and you and your baby are both healthy, many medical professionals will recommend that you interview a variety of physicians and midwives before you decide which type of professional is the best fit for your pregnancy. Ultimately, it's important to pick a physician or OBGYN who makes you feel comfortable and safe.