If you are giving birth in a hospital, you may find that there are many people responsible for your care during labor. It may help you better understand what is going on during your labor, if you understand what everyone is there for.
CNA (Certified Nursing Aide)
Many hospitals have CNAs (certified nursing aides) working in labor and delivery wards. CNAs can perform a variety of tasks, such as taking blood pressure, assisting with ambulation (walking), fulfilling the woman’s request for things such as food or drink. CNAs may also assist nurses and physicians with other tasks. A CNA plays a much less medical role than a nurse does, as there are many procedures nurses can perform that CNAs cannot.
Nurses play a large role in labor and delivery. Nurses are responsible for carrying out the doctors orders and may perform such tasks as administering medications, performing vaginal exams, and placing an intravenous drip (IV). Nurses often assist physicians and midwives during the actual delivery of the baby, including cesarean deliveries.
CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife)
A certified nurse midwife is a nurse who has undergone extensive training to specialize in delivering babies. Although she may perform many of the same tasks as an obstetrician, midwives often are not permitted to handle labors that are not considered “normal” or are considered high risk. In many hospitals, a midwife must turn a client over to, or work with an obstetrician if a client requires an induction or develops certain conditions. In a normal labor with a midwife attending, the midwife is responsible for delivering the baby and caring for the mother’s immediate needs.
An obstetrician is a physician who is specially trained in the field of obstetrics (the care of pregnant women) and is knowledgeable in how to handle all types of deliveries and pregnancies and any complications that may arise. In a vaginal delivery, the obstetrician is often the physician that examines and cares for the newborn. An obstetrician is also a skilled surgeon equipped to perform a cesarean and other surgeries related to childbirth if needed. The obstetrician is responsible for delivering the baby, whether it’s a vaginal or surgical birth. If the birth is surgical, the obstetrician is responsible for performing the cesarean section and caring for the mother’s immediate medical needs during this time.
An anesthesiologist is someone who is trained to administer anesthetics (pain relieving medications, such as an epidural or spinal). The anesthesiologist will be part of the delivery team should you request an epidural or spinal during labor. The anesthesiologist is responsible for administering anesthetics and managing the doses of the anesthetics and ensuring they are taking proper effect. If the woman is to have a cesarean, the anesthesiologist will be present for the entire delivery, rather than checking in periodically as in a vaginal delivery. This continuous presence is to ensure that the anesthetics remain effective throughout the entire surgery, and should the mother require it, anti-nausea medications may be administered to prevent vomiting in labor.
A pediatrician is a physician specializing in the care of infants and children. A pediatrician may not be present during a vaginal delivery, and immediately following birth the mother’s obstetrician or midwife may examine and care for the newborn and the pediatrician will check in later to perform their own examination of the baby. If a cesarean section is performed, a pediatrician is present for the entire delivery and is responsible for the care of the baby immediately after birth, while the obstetrician tends to the mother.