If you are fascinated by the world of obstetrics, you may be looking for ways that allow you to work in the medical field associated with childbirth. While becoming a physician who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology is one option, this can be a long and very expensive way to fulfill your career desires. Here are two other options related to obstetrics that are both less costly and less time consuming.
What a Midwife Does
A midwife assists women during all phases of the childbirth process. They can perform prenatal health checks, deliver babies, and provide post-partum care. In some instances, they can also prescribe certain medications like birth control pills and prenatal vitamins.
Some midwives work in hospital or birth center settings, with varying degrees of automony. Others are in complete management of the birth process, when they deliver babies in the patients' homes. Because they often work with little to no physician supervision, midwives should be able to handle emergency situations without panicking and feel comfortable asking for emergency help when necessary.
How to Become a Midwife
There are several paths to becoming a midwife, depending on your background, the type of setting you want to work in, and the state in which you wish to practice. At minimum, midwives in the United States should have a Bachelor's degree, although some states and employers require a Master's degree.
After completing the requisite degree work, you take courses, do apprentice work, and take exams to become a Certified Midwife, a Certified Professional Midwife, or a Certified Nurse Midwife. The latter certification is for people who already have a nursing degree.
Pros and Cons of Midwifery
Many people find working as a midwife very rewarding because they are essentially doing what many physicians do, and during the childbirth process, they get to know their patients and their families very well. They are paid well for that responsibility too, sometimes above six figures per year.
For people who don't yet have a college degree, the road to becoming a midwife can seem a bit long, but it is still a shorter career path than that of physicians or nurse practitioners. While midwives only assist with what they know at the time to be low-risk, healthy pregnancies, emergencies can arise suddenly during deliveries. A midwife who is assisting at a home birth may have two patients to deal with (the mother and the infant), which can be a challenge if a crisis occurs.
What a Doula Does
A doula assists women during childbirth as an attendant and immediately after to help them recover from the birth process. They may assist the woman's partner, or they may function as a labor coach if the other parent is not able to participate. Many single mothers and mothers whose partners are away serving in the military, for example, find having a doula invaluable.
Doulas do not provide medical advice but instead offer emotional and physical support to the mother. They can perform massages, fetch water, and lend comfort during challenging birth moments. Some people work as a doula for just one or two births per month, while others are affiliated with a birthing center and may assist with dozens each month. Still others assist a mother during birth and go on to work with that mother at her home for several months after delivery, preparing meals, helping with childcare, and doing light housework.
How to Become a Doula
No formal training is required to be a labor doula, however there are many national and international organizations that offer coursework for people interested in this line of work. You should be aware that mothers seeking prospective doulas will generally feel more comfortable hiring someone who has a certification from one of the major doula training groups.
Pros and Cons of Working as a Doula
While doulas don't make the same high salaries midwives do, they have less responsibility as all decision-making lies in the hands of medical personnel. There is always work available in this field, and the career path is considerably shorter, though the rewards are still significant.
If you think either of these career paths might be for you, you should find out what the state and area hospital requirements are for each job. Ask to speak with a midwife or professional doula for further information on any certification you need to become credentialed to work in that environment. You don't need to be an obstetrician to assist women giving birth, but you can be just as valuable to many mothers in need. For more information talk to a professional like George L Stankevych MD.
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