Do You Know Your Birth Professionals?

Do you know your pregnancy professional ABCs? You’ve got your IBCLC, OBGYN, doula, and much more. Who are all of these people and what do the letters mean? Do you need them to assist with giving birth or postpartum care? Each professional can vary in their expertise and approach, so it’s important to know what sets them apart.

Knowing Your Birth Professionals


An OB is an obstetrician, a physician who specializes in labor, child delivery, and postpartum care.

A GYN is a gynecologist, a physician who specializes in treating diseases of the female reproductive system. They handle a majority of female-related conditions such as menstruation issues, fertility issues, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, hormonal disorders, and more.

So an OB/GYN is an obstetrician/gynecologist, a physician that does both! They focus on delivering babies and female reproductive health.

The average woman begins seeing a GYN or OB/GYN annually around age 13.


A doula is a birth professional that isn’t trained as an obstetrician but instead provides emotional support during labor and postpartum care. They provide emotional, physical, and educational care to help mothers prepare for labor and caring for their infants.

Doulas tend to connect with mothers a few months before their due dates to build a trusting connection. This way the mother will feel comfortable sharing fears or concerns. Even though they don’t provide the medical care they assist with relaxation techniques, pain relief, and birthing positions. They also advocate for the mother’s birthing plans and desires to encourage them during the birthing process.

Nina Spears, doula and co-founder of The Baby Chick, shared, “Pregnancy can be an overwhelming time. It’s a time of confusion—what should you do? What shouldn’t you do? How can you better prepare? What should you get? And more. A doula is there for her clients in person, over email, text message, and phone calls to answer those questions and reassure women of what their options are throughout pregnancy and infant care.”

After the infant is delivered doulas will assist with breastfeeding and encourage bonding with the baby and other family members.


Midwives are experienced care professionals that assist with the various stages of maternity and labor while providing education. They are able to recognize and assist when births deviate from what’s normal and can intervene during high-risk situations. If situations go beyond their experience they will refer to your obstetrician. Midwives are valuable parts of the care team to provide care in support during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum care.

There are different types of midwives based on their education levels and specialties:

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) - CNMs are registered nurses with graduate education in midwifery. They have a university degree plus hands-on clinical training by experienced CNMs. They provide general women’s healthcare services such as health check-ups, physical exams, pregnancy, bitch, postpartum care, gynecological care, STD treatment, and can prescribe medications.

Certified Midwife (CM) - CMs refer to midwives with bachelor degrees in other fields than nursing but have graduated from a graduate-level midwifery education program. They have midwifery education similar to CNMs and receive the same training as CNMS to provide health-related skills, treatments, and can prescribe medications.

Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) - CPMs must pass a national certification exam administered by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). They must receive apprenticeship training or formal education from an accredited program. CPMs can assist with pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care outside of hospitals and can not prescribe medications.

Lactation Consultants

Lactation consultants are professionally trained to assist mothers in preventing and solving breastfeeding complications such as sore nipples or low milk supply. They specialize in clinical breastfeeding management and are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

They connect with mothers after infants are born to help initiate breastfeeding and may assist with babies who aren’t gaining enough weight. Lactation consultants may teach breastfeeding classes and can assist moms that have to return to work or school with meeting their breastfeeding goals.

There are different types of lactation consultants based on their education and training levels:

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant  (IBCLC) - An IBCLC is certified by the IBLCE for providing clinical breastfeeding services, research in the lactation field, professional development, and more to improve breastfeeding outcomes. They are recertified every five years with experience in a variety of breastfeeding situations to helps moms establish and sustain breastfeeding even if difficulties and high-risk situations arise.

Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) - A CLC is a healthcare professional with the ability to demonstrate the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to provide breastfeeding counseling and support to families considering breastfeeding. They must complete 52 hours of training and be able to demonstrate clinical competency and the skills necessary for providing safe, evidence bases counseling for pregnant, lactating, and breastfeeding moms.

Lactation Education Counselor (LEC) - LECs teach breastfeeding classes in hospitals, clinics, stores, or privately. They are certified to teach about breastfeeding practices and their classes generally vary between 2 to 4 hours.

Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE)

A reproductive endocrinologist has special training in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility and assists with fertility preservation. REs practice in a subspecialty of obstetrics to provide fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and egg or sperm freezing. They have an in-depth understanding of the female reproductive system and endocrine (hormone) system to diagnose and treat infertility issues.


A chiropractor is a healthcare professional that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders based on the diagnosis and manipulative treatment of misaligned joints. They focus on the restoration of function and injury prevention in addition to back pain relief.

While it’s common to consider chiropractors to be for middle-aged men, they actually do wonders for pregnant women. As your baby grows and your back and hips begin to take on the extra weight and pressure of the weight, your body can become stressed as the joints and ligaments loosen to prepare for birth. Chiropractors relieve this stress to help expecting mothers be more comfortable during their normal daily routine and prevent birth complications.

Which Expert Do You Need?

While each birth professional can assist you in a unique area, the ones you choose to interact with will be based on your wants and needs. You may not need a chiropractor, or want a doula, but they can both assist with comfort and support. Research your OB/GYN options to determine the best course for your pregnancy and postpartum care.

Use our Lactation Support Directory for a comprehensive list of both Lactation Resources and Support Groups!