There are many professionals that you will meet when giving birth, all of whom serve in very important but very different roles. This blog post will attempt to explain the various caregivers that may be participating in your labor and delivery and explain what their role will be in making your baby’s birthday as safe and memorable as possible.
Your attending physician (or certified nurse midwife) is the provider that has been taking care of you throughout your pregnancy and will be the person overseeing your labor and delivery. He or she is responsible for you and your baby’s health and safety during labor and will be the one to make recommendations when it comes to your care. Most attendings will not be present in the hospital throughout your entire labor, but they will be in constant communication with the hospital staff to ensure that you and your baby are doing well and will always be available in case of an emergency.
A resident is a physician who has graduated medical school and is training an additional number of years in a medical specialty such as Obstetrics & Gynecology. Residents play a significant role in the labor and delivery process at teaching hospitals, and you will often find them working in conjunction with your primary care provider to oversee your labor and suggest interventions if necessary. The resident physician may perform cervical exams, apply internal monitors and break your water if necessary. He or she may perform a vaginal delivery with your doctor or, if you have a c-section, the resident will often scrub in and assist your physician since a c-section requires two surgeons. You are most likely to find residents in a large academic medical center.
Medical students simultaneously help the medical staff with various procedures and learn more about the labor and delivery process for their own education. Their involvement in your care is completely based on your comfort level, and if you are uncomfortable, you can request not to have any (though your physicians may spend more time explaining things when a medical student is in the room with you). At no time does a medical student make any medical decisions for you or perform any procedures without direct supervision. You are most likely to find medical students in teaching hospitals.
Your nurse is responsible for keeping a very close eye on you and your baby during labor and calling your doctor or midwife with updates. She will be evaluating your vital signs, contraction pattern and the baby’s heart rate pattern to ensure that there are no complications. She may also perform cervical exams, control the medications in your IV and work with you on pushing before delivery. Your nurse will be your primary caretaker during labor and will be available throughout to answer questions and provide support.
Certified Nursing Assistant/OB Technician
You may find a Certified Nursing Assistant or OB Technician working in Labor & Delivery at the hospital where you deliver. Their job varies depending on the hospital, but common responsibilities include assisting your nurse with various tasks, setting up the delivery table in your room, checking vital signs and transporting you to the Postpartum unit.
You will meet the scrub tech in the Operating Room if you are having a c-section. It is their job to assist the surgeons by passing them instruments and maintaining a sterile surgical field.
Your anesthesiologist is primarily responsible for administering pain medications and maintaining your vital signs and airway in case of an emergency. The anesthesiologist may come to greet you when you arrive in Labor & Delivery and make you aware of your pain control options. He or she will be the one to administer an epidural if you choose to get one during labor or before a c-section. If you require a c-section, they will be present right next to your head throughout the entire operation to keep a close eye on your vital signs and ensure that your pain is under control. Some hospitals also utilize nurse anesthetists or anesthesiology residents, who serve under supervision of an attending anesthesiologist.
The Labor & Delivery team all work together to make your experience as safe and positive as possible, and knowing what to expect from each of them can help make your baby's birthday more enjoyable.