**UPDATED on October 29, 2019 to add information about hospital discharge for midwifery patients**

Does prenatal care in Hamilton overwhelm you? If you just peed on a stick and thought to yourself, “I’m pregnant! What now?” Well, you aren’t alone. 

Most people have no idea what to do next after they find out they are pregnant. 

In an ideal world there would be a registry you could sign up for on your phone. It would tell you how to find prenatal care in Hamilton, if there are birth centres near you, the locations of all the maternity stores and a listing of every class available to help you figure out what they heck you need to know to get through pregnancy, birth and being a new parent. 

I guess there is something like that. It’s me!  I’m a doula, a childbirth educator and an infant feeding specialist. If you have a question about what to do and where to go when you become pregnant, I suppose that would be me.

So, what do you need to do next?

I suggest telling your partner, if you have one. If you don’t have a partner, tell your most treasured friend of family member. 

The next step is to connect with a care provider. You can self-refer to a variety of types of care providers for prenatal care in Hamilton. There is no need to go to your family doctor first to get a formal referral. 

Here is a breakdown of all of the providers who support births at our two maternity hospitals: McMaster University Medical Centre (MUMC) or St. Jospeh’s Healthcare Hamilton (St. Joe’s).

Obstetricians In Hamilton

An obstetrician is a doctor that provides prenatal care in Hamilton. They are surgeons who can perform cesarean births as well as related gynaecological procedures. There are many obstetricians in Hamilton. They practice in a variety of settings including private practice, hospital based clinics and in the high risk Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic at McMaster University Medical Centre.

The pros: surgeons are trained and experienced in handling high risk scenarios and can take care of you even if your pregnancy or birth becomes complicated or dangerous. On the whole they practice expectant medicine: they watch and wait to act only when medically warranted to benefit the parent and baby.

And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out one thing that makes obstetricians in Hamilton particularly special: each OB is a faculty member of McMaster University’s medical program. This means each is a professor and often teaching residents and medical students and therefore they must deliver the quality of care that can be emulated by learning doctors.

The cons: surgeons spend a lot of time with higher risk patients and may be less tolerant of a wait and see approach in some scenarios. They carry very large caseloads that include both obstetric and gynaecology patients which leaves little time for discussion in appointments. They only deliver in hospital. Finally, because they work a once weekly shift on call in hospital, it is unlikely a patient would have their own OB deliver their baby unless the birth is scheduled. Post birth care includes one wellness check for the new parent at 6 weeks postpartum.

Find an Obstetrician in Hamilton Ontario: 

Family Practice Doctors in Hamilton

Family practitioners are also medical doctors, like obstetricians. They are not obstetric surgeons, however. Through the Maternity Centre of Hamilton, FPs can provide prenatal care in Hamilton in addition to birth and postpartum care. They work side-by-side with OBs in case a birth becomes complicated.

The pros: Because FPs practice in a group scenario which gives a patient a better chance of knowing who will deliver their baby. Also due to the group practice arrangement, a pregnant person won’t be turned away due to a booked vacation or lack of space for new patients. Post birth support care includes baby care and ongoing wellness checks in office. FPs can also provide access to related support such as in-clinic breastfeeding support and mental health support.

The cons: Family practitioners only support in-hospital birth. They do not have surgical training and require OB consultation and oversight if a high risk scenario develops. The post-birth support is in-office only. 

Find a Family Practice Doctor in Hamilton Ontario:

Midwives in Hamilton

Midwives are trained pregnancy and birth and postpartum specialists for low risk patients. They provide prenatal care in Hamilton that encompasses pregnancy, birth and postpartum support. Like FPs they are not surgeons and therefore work side-by-side with OBs to provide safe pregnancy and birth support when there are health complications. 

The pros: You can choose to have a home birth with a midwife. But, you can also have an epidural in the hospital, too!  Midwives provide longer prenatal meetings than other practitioners with meetings lasting 30 to 45 minutes. Midwives practice what is referred to as family-focused care meaning their care style is more collaborative and  the balance of power in decision making rests with the pregnant person.

They will typically use a wider range of non-medicinal tools and techniques to help their patients achieve a safe and satisfying birth. Because midwives work in teams it is extremely likely a patient will be supported by their midwife during birth. Studies show that even when people transfer into hospital from a home birth, or require obstetric consultation, midwives are associated with less interventions and have excellent safety statistics for both home and hospital birth. Parents who give birth in the hospital with a midwife and it is determined that they and their baby are healthy and stable can go home after only 3 hours.

Many people believe the after birth care with midwives is what makes midwifery care superior. Midwives visit with their patients in-home for the first couple of weeks and include ongoing wellness checks for up to six to eight weeks in office.

The cons: Midwives are not doctors and have extremely limited prescriptive powers and require oversight by an obstetrician in higher risk cases. They are also unable to perform surgery. 

Find a midwife in Hamilton: 

Doulas in Hamilton

Let’s talk about doulas for a moment, too. Because we also provide prenatal care in Hamilton, just not the medical kind.

Doulas are folks who provide companionship and coaching throughout pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. While they do not provide primary medical care during the prenatal and postpartum period and do not deliver babies, they are on call to their clients to answer questions, provide guidance and support for physical comfort and can help their clients work through their challenges during pregnancy, birth and indefinitely after birth.

While nobody technically needs a doula to have a baby, just like noone needs to join a gym to exercise, joining a gym and hiring a trainer can make a person’s efforts so much more effective and provide them with the exact tools to best achieve their goals.

The pros: Doulas support clients pursuing births of all types. Doulas can talk on the phone, via text, or by email, about anything to do with having a baby and any time of night or day as needed. They work in the client’s home at times convenient for the client and provide emotional, social and mental health support that is focused on the needs of the client.

The cons: A doula cannot guarantee a specific birth outcome. Unlike medical care providers, doulas are not free. They will work with clients to find a payment plan to fit all budgets (and, hint hint, the earlier you hire a doula the longer you have to pay) but their services are not covered by OHIP.

No matter what kind of prenatal care provider you decide to go with, we think a doula makes the perfect complement to your birth support team. 

Do you have questions about different providers?  Need to talk through what type of provider is best for you?  You can always call us at 289 426 5170 to talk to someone with over a decade of experience working with the doctors and midwives in Hamilton, Ontario.