GPs (general practitioners)
GPs are doctors who are skilled at treating many different aspects of healthcare across all age groups. When you first find out or suspect you’re pregnant, your GP is usually the first medical professional you’ll see, and they will confirm the pregnancy and estimate the due date for you.
Your GP can also discuss your pregnancy care options and give you guidance about looking after yourself. Sometimes your GP can be your main care provider during the pregnancy, along with a midwife or an obstetrician in a ‘shared care’ arrangement, depending on their qualifications.
If you don’t have a regular GP before you have a baby, it’s well worth finding one in preparation for parenthood. You’re going to have far more medical needs once you have a baby and then a toddler on the scene, and your GP will usually be your first port of call when you or your child have a health issue or concern.
Midwives (who can be either women or men) are specially trained in caring for women during pregnancy and labour, and then also after the birth. Prenatal classes are usually run by midwives, who are often trained nurses as well. Midwives provide care for new mothers and babies in the weeks after birth, including helping the mother to establish breastfeeding.
During labour, a midwife will be your main support person, as they will monitor the progress of the labour, give you emotional support and assurance, help you with pain relief and call extra medical assistance if needed.
Specialist doctors with training in obstetrics (which is the medical care of women before, during, and after childbirth) are known as obstetricians. Obstetricians are usually the ones responsible for providing this service in most hospital maternity units. Obstetricians usually deliver babies in cases where extra medical care and specialist knowledge is needed, and they also perform caesarean sections.
Depending what (if any) pain relief you have during labour, you might meet an anaesthetist. If you request an epidural, that will be provided by an anaesthetist, and they will handle all anaesthetic requirements if you are having a caesarean birth.
Paediatricians are medical doctors who have done extra training to specialise in the healthcare of babies, children and teenagers. Paediatricians treat diseases, illnesses and any other conditions that can affect the health, welfare and behaviour of children. Some paediatricians do specialised training in specific areas such as the treatment of newborn babies (neonatology) or paediatric cancer or cardiology (heart problems).
Maternal and child health nurses
Maternal and child health (MCH) nurses work with parents, carers and other healthcare professionals to monitor how a child is growing and developing from birth for about the next three or four years.
MCH nurses are located at council-based facilities and, among the many services they provide, they can:
- support new parents and give information and advice on a range of parenting topics, such as child health, development, behaviour and safety, the mother’s health and wellbeing, breastfeeding, nutrition and immunisation
- monitor the growth and development of your child at specific times during those first few years
- be a source of additional support and services to anyone experiencing difficulties.