A Guide to Birth Professionals in Tulsa
Written by Sarah Coffin, owner and founder of Tulsa Family Doulas
I am an experienced professional that has been fully immersed in the birth field since 2009. After a while, I can guess some of the common questions I will get when talking with new clients, strangers and even my bank teller - Hey, I'm there often enough, she even recommended a client to me! One big question is "How do I choose who is going to catch my baby?"
In a previous post, we talked a little about how OBs are actual human beings regardless of what some activists in the birth world would have you believe. Every birth or labor doula in Tulsa Family Doulas understands the importance of respecting the medical team our clients have put in place for their birth - from high risk pregnancies and deliveries to uncomplicated natural delivery. We don't tell you who to choose to deliver your baby, rather we help navigate your birth plan and desires so you can know going into your birth that this will be the best experience possible for you and your unique situation.
There are so many options for doctors and midwives in Tulsa. They will work with you during pregnancy and provide you prenatal care all the way up to the birth of your baby and a few weeks beyond. Let's talk briefly about what makes each of them different so you can find the right provider for you!
Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists
Maternal-fetal medicine specialists or perinatologists are doctors practicing a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology. Maternal-fetal medicine doctors are sometimes called perinatologists and these doctors are trained to deal with the highest risk pregnancies. Often the MFM doctor and the original OB will share in the care of the patient, but the MFM specialist will not attend your birth.
An obstetrician or OB is a physician or surgeon that is qualified to practice obstetrics - the care of women during pregnancy or childbirth. Behind the doctor's name, you will find the initials MD or DO.
The MD initials mean that the doctor has chosen to practice allopathic medicine. That means that the OB MD focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of anything that comes up with his or her patients. The DO initials mean that the obstetrician practices osteopathic medicine. This type of practice tends to be a more holistic holistic view of medicine. The OB DO focuses on seeing the patient as a “whole person” to reach a diagnosis should problems arise during pregnancy, rather than treating symptoms alone.
While the practical training in the care of a pregnant and delivering woman is the same for the obstetricians, the philosophies tend to differ on how to achieve optimal care for their patients. Sit down with a couple of different obstetricians and interview them about their ideal way to care for a patient so that you can feel confident in your MD or DO choice.
NICU and special Care
For some clients, it is incredibly important for them to be under the care of someone that has extensive medical training, is well-versed in surgical birth and practices at a hospital that provides NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) options. Tulsa has several hospitals that provide NICU care.
- The Henry Zarrow Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Children's Hospital at Saint Francis is a level IV NICU, the highest ranking available.
- St. John Center for Women's Health boasts the only NICU in Oklahoma with all private rooms.
- The Peggy V. Helmerich Women's Health Center at Hillcrest is a level III NICU.
- The Oklahoma State University Medical Center has a level III NICU.
- Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center at Hillcrest South has a level II special care nursery.
- Saint Francis Hospital South offers a level II special care nursery.
Many hospitals employ several doctors that remain on the hospital campus during designated shifts called hospitalists. Primarily, this doctor provides care for laboring patients who may experience an immediate emergency. They also are present for a patient whose doctor is not immediately available for delivery or if the hospital has specific guidelines for care under special circumstances like VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean).
Family practice doctors offer care for the whole family from obstetrics to geriatrics. This is a great option for a pregnant mom that wants to continue care with her doctor after her baby is born, and have one doctor that takes care of the whole family. Family physicians often have an additional 3 years of training beyond medical school with some family practice doctors choosing to specialize in obstetrics. This gives them the education needed to perform cesareans and provide the same level of care as other providers. If the care required goes beyond the skill of the family practice doctor, then they will often refer to an obstetrician or maternal fetal medicine specialist.
Another maternity care provider option in Tulsa is a hospital-based midwife. Midwives that work in hospitals have trained as an RN and achieved advanced degrees. These nurses are called Certified Nurse Midwives or CNMs. Many times this maternity care provider gives clients the ability to have the mother-centered care achieved in the midwifery model while finding comfort in the hospital environment. Appointments tend to be longer with a midwife and more of a personal relationship is formed. CNMs will generally provide care for moms with low-risk pregnancies and deliveries and often work in a group with other maternity care providers.
The midwifery model of care also offers some other options in training and certification. Some Certified Nurse Midwives and Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) choose to provide care for home birth or birth center births. CPMs are maternity care providers that have studied, apprenticed and passed a certifying exam. These midwives focus on low-risk births and will refer to doctors if indicators point to needing additional care.
Lay midwives are women that offer support and care during pregnancy and delivery. While they do not have initials behind their name, many may have much training and apprenticeship or have done self-study.
Oklahoma does not currently regulate midwifery care. There are peer-reviewed based organizations that provide education and support for local midwives.
Make the decision
Your primary goal when finding your perfect care provider is your peace of mind. Interview many. Ask the hard questions. Gauge their responses and trust your instincts. Sometimes even after interviewing and finding the perfect care provider, the one you have chosen still isn't the one that ends up attending your birth and catching your baby. Make sure you have a support team in place including your labor doula to help you have your best experience possible.