Pregnancy Who’s Who: Ob/Gyns, Midwives, Doulas, Oh My!

pregnant mom talking to birth professional

Do you know your pregnancy professional ABCs? 

Most moms don't at first, and that's okay! There is a wide range of professions that provide care during pregnancy and beyond. You’ve got your OBGYNs, midwives, doulas, IBCLCs, and 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 varies in scope, expertise, and approach, so it’s important to know what sets them apart! Here’s a cheat sheet:

Knowing Your Birth Professionals


An OB is an obstetrician, a physician who specializes in pregnancy, labor, child delivery, and postpartum care. They treat conditions and perform surgeries that relate specifically to pregnancy. They may perform prenatal care (blood tests, physical exams, etc.), family planning, provide care during the prenatal and postpartum period, monitor your baby’s growth, and more.

Under this umbrella falls reproductive endocrinologists, who have special training in fertility services, helping to preserve fertility and treat infertility. 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. 

A GYN is a gynecologist, a physician who specializes in women’s health. They oversee the care of individuals with female sex organs, helping manage menstruation, fertility issues, family planning, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, hormonal disorders, and more. They also perform yearly check-ups, screenings, and pelvic exams, and manage prescriptions for contraceptives and other necessary medications. The average woman or individual with female organs begins seeing a GYN annually around age 13 or whenever menstruation begins. 

When you put them both together, you have an OB/GYN, or an obstetrician/gynecologist. Simply put, this is a physician who does both! They focus on both delivering babies and female reproductive health.


Midwives are experienced care professionals who provide education and assist with the various stages of maternity and labor, including delivery. They can deliver babies, recognize and assist when births deviate from standard procedure, and they can intervene during high-risk situations. Typically, if a situation goes beyond their expertise, they will refer you to your obstetrician. 

Midwives are valuable members of the pregnancy care team, offering moms support during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum care. They usually have a college degree, are registered nurses, and have a master’s degree in midwifery, but they do not go to medical school as an OB/GYN would. You may have heard that midwives deliver the majority of at-home births; while midwives do help mamas deliver from their homes, they also deliver in birth centers and at hospitals.

While midwives often take a less hands-on approach when it comes to medications during pregnancy and delivery, they are often well-versed in breathing techniques, birthing position options, and more to help reduce pain. Often, midwives can spend more time with birthing mamas, providing additional emotional support as well. 

One thing to keep in mind is that midwives cannot perform Cesarean sections and are more practical for mothers with low-risk pregnancies, as those who have high-risk pregnancies may need more advanced medical intervention.

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

Certified Midwife (CM): CMs refer to midwives with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. These midwives have still completed a graduate-level midwifery education program, but may not have as extensive medical knowledge. They have midwifery education similar to CNMs and receive the same training to provide health-related skills and treatments, and can prescribe medications.

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): Nurse midwives are registered nurses with a graduate education in midwifery. They have a university degree plus hands-on clinical training along with their midwifery education. They provide general women’s healthcare services such as health check-ups, physical exams, pregnancy, postpartum care, gynecological care, and STD treatment on top of being able to deliver babies, and they 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.


A doula is a birth professional (not a medical professional) who acts as a highly-skilled emotional support person and birthing partner before, during, and after pregnancy and labor. They assist alongside your husband, romantic partner, or other friend or family member, or they can act as your only support person if you prefer. While doulas are not trained to deliver babies, many parents find them valuable members of the birthing team. 

Birth 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 her fears and concerns. Even though they don’t provide medical care, they assist with relaxation techniques, pain relief, and birthing positions. They also advocate for the mother's birth plan, ensuring her wishes and birthing preferences are properly followed.

After delivery, doulas often assist with breastfeeding and encourage bonding with the baby and other family members. This can be a great support system, as it may help mamas identify any issues that may need further attention, such as postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

Lactation Consultants

Lactation consultants (LCs) are professionally trained medical personnel who 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 who 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 help moms establish and sustain breastfeeding even if difficulties and high-risk situations arise. 

At Aeroflow Breastpumps, we are proud to employ a highly skilled team of IBCLCs. If you need assistance with breastfeeding or pumping, our lactation team can help! 

Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC): A CLC is a healthcare professional who can 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 demonstrate clinical competency and skills necessary for providing safe, evidence-based 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.


A chiropractor is a healthcare professional who focuses on diagnosing and treating 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 as only for older or injured populations, many pregnant women work with chiropractors as their bodies adjust to carry their babies. 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 aim to relieve this stress. They also assist with realignment postpartum.

Which Expert Do I Need?

It’s recommended that all individuals with female reproductive organs see a gynecologist for general wellness visits, exams, and screenings. Outside of your gynecologist, who else do you want on your birth team? That all depends on your wants, needs, and accessibility. 

When considering and assembling your pregnancy and postpartum care team, be sure to weigh all of your wants and concerns. Do you want emotional support in addition to medical care? Do you want help establishing a breastfeeding plan? What does your insurance cover and what is your out-of-pocket budget? Knowing what your goals are is a great place to start. 

Remind yourself that you can also add a member to your care team at any time! If halfway through your pregnancy you begin to experience terrible back pain, you may want to consult with a chiropractor to get some relief. Research your options and monitor your body as you develop 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!