A mother's hands gently cradle a baby's tiny feet.

Who's On Your Pregnancy Team?

Your Guide to Lamaze, Doulas, Pediatricians, and Cord Blood Banks

Now that you’re on your way to having your baby, you’re starting to gather up your team of cheerleaders and players in your journey towards a healthy, happy birth. But who will be on that team? And what should you look for in each member?

We’ve got you covered—here’s your official guide to midwives, doulas, Lamaze,  pediatricians, and your cord blood bank.

What’s a midwife?

Midwives are professionals trained in guiding women through the labor process. Most midwives are Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), or registered nurses who have passed a midwifery education program and a national exam. Midwives can also be Certified Midwives or Certified Professional Midwives (CMs/CPMs)—non-nurses who have completed a training program. CNMs may practice midwifery in every state, while some states do not permit CMs and CPMs to practice.

What does a midwife do?

Midwives can help throughout all stages of pregnancy. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of care your midwife can provide:

  • Order and perform some prenatal exams
  • Refer you to doctors
  • Monitor your physical health and provide advice
  • Monitor your psychological health and provide advice
  • Suggest diet, exercise, and medication plans
  • Help you develop your ideal birth plan
  • Support you during labor
  • Advise you when it’s time to go to the hospital if you’re giving birth in a hospital
  • Deliver your baby
  • Discuss next steps and postnatal care

When does a midwife join Team Pregnancy?

Most women start looking for a midwife very early on in their pregnancy. Many midwives are busy, so women try to secure one as early as possible. Some women say that when they find out they’re pregnant, they tell their partner first—and then call a midwife!

Should I have a midwife?

Midwives are generally employed when the mother wants little to no medical intervention and expects a healthy birth. Any complications during pregnancy that might affect the birthing process will bar most midwives from overseeing the birth.

Many midwives assist mothers with a home birth, but hospitals are usually an option if the mother so chooses. If you’re a healthy mom looking for a natural childbirth with lots of emotional support, then a midwife could be perfect for you.

An image of a woman assisting a pregnant woman.

What’s a Doula?

Doulas have been used in some capacity around the world for centuries, and also referred to as labor companions or labor assistants, and are often confused with midwives because both offer prenatal care and support during labor. However, the two serve different purposes. A doula is a professional who provides care and support to mothers throughout the pregnancy, during labor, and after birth. Doulas work with the mom to design the perfect birth experience—but they aren’t allowed to deliver the baby.

What does a doula do?

Much of what a doula does overlaps with the job of a midwife, barring delivering the baby. A few months before the baby is due, doulas start to coach and work with mothers in preparation for their big day. A doula becomes one of the best resources for the mother to turn to when she has questions or concerns.

However, unlike a midwife, a doula will not perform any exams or provide medical treatment. While a doula won’t replace your doctor, she or he will likely be able to offer guidance regarding when to speak to a doctor. They’re well-versed in the procedures and tests that occur during pregnancy, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Essentially, a doula is your pregnancy encyclopedia—and shoulder to lean on. They’ll be ready with important information and guidance and, when you need it, a lot of psychological support for both you and your partner. You and your doula will get together to design your ideal birth experience, and your doula will do everything in their power to ensure you stay happy and healthy.

In particular, doulas are useful during labor. They remain with the mother and specialize in psychological and physical assistance, including pain relief methods, labor positions, and comfort. Mothers usually find a doula early on in their pregnancy, although regular meetings may not start until a few months before the due date.

What’s a Lamaze class?

Lamaze is a method of teaching childbirth techniques that has been popular in the United States since the 1950s. Classes usually cover important topics like breathing techniques, pain relief, strengthening, and awareness. Women learn how to move and work their bodies to respond positively to labor and reduce pain.

Importantly, Lamaze classes aim to educate women so that they’re able to make more informed choices about their labor experience, from the use of medication to any potential complications that could arise.

What does a Lamaze class cover?

Lamaze classes usually consist of 12 hours of instruction with up to 12 couples in a class at one time. Expecting mothers and their partners will learn what to expect from a normal labor and postpartum period, breathing techniques, relaxation and pain relief techniques, communication advice for staying an active part of the birth, and much more. Also, Lamaze classes will help your partner help you in the best way possible. Women usually enroll in Lamaze classes around the seventh month of pregnancy.

A couple sitting on a yoga ball and performing yoga poses together.

Should I take a Lamaze class?

Lamaze classes are a great way to stay informed, especially if you’re considering a natural birth. Even if you’re not, these classes can help empower you and keep you calm during labor and the postpartum period. You’ll learn key skills like breastfeeding and early care for your child, so you’ll know exactly what to expect.

Should I be thinking about a pediatrician?

Although it’s not necessary during pregnancy, many women start looking for a pediatrician during their second trimester. It’s important to choose a pediatrician with whom you feel comfortable being open and who meets any and all requirements you may have. So start looking early! And be sure to ask him or her questions about what matters to you. If you don’t see eye to eye on an issue you care about, it might be a good idea to look elsewhere.

What about cord blood banking?

A conversation about cord blood banking has probably come up with your doctor, but you might not be totally sure of the benefits and process involved.

Cord blood banking is the process of collecting and storing blood from your newborn’s umbilical cord after delivery. Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of blood-forming stem cells, which are otherwise rare. If your child does develop a blood disorder or other medical condition, his or her treatment options may call for cord blood transplant, which can be an incredibly powerful treatment tool.

Should I consider banking my cord blood?

Cord blood banking is a simple, painless procedure that takes place immediately after birth. Parents bring their collection kit to the hospital during labor. The doctor will then remove the umbilical cord and collect the blood in a collection bag, then ship it to a lab to be stored.

There are no downsides or risks to storing your cord blood, and in the event of your child developing a condition that can be treated with cord blood, you’ll have an indispensable resource on your hands.

You have an exciting road ahead of you—and you want to make sure the people you take with you make you feel especially safe, comfortable, and empowered. So, as captain of Team Pregnancy, it’s time to find your top picks!


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