Types of Care Providers
The BC Ministry of Health covers the cost of maternity care for BC residents under the BC Medical Services Plan. For your primary (main) maternity care provider, you can choose a family physician, a registered midwife, or an obstetrician. Each care provider offers a different type of expertise:
Family Physician – Family physicians work largely in community-based practices, typically offering maternity care as one component of their medical services. When complications develop (such as the need for cesarean birth), family doctors consult with obstetricians, pediatricians and other specialists.
Not all family physicians in BC provide maternity care. If your own doctor does not provide maternity services, he/she can refer you to another family physician, a midwife or an obstetrician to care for you during your pregnancy and birth.
If you do not have a family physician, contact the BC College of Family Physicians for a list of physicians in your area who are accepting new patients.
Women who live in Vancouver can also find physicians accepting maternity patients by contacting the hospital where they wish to give birth:
- For BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre, the Department of Family Practice offers an online list of maternity doctors.
- For St. Paul’s Hospital, call the Maternity Unit (through the main switchboard at 604-682-2344) and ask for the names of family physicians accepting patients for maternity care.
Midwife – Registered midwives in BC offer primary health care to healthy pregnant women and their newborn babies from early pregnancy, through labour and birth, and up to six weeks postpartum. Just like physicians, midwives are regulated and registered through a professional college. All registered midwives in BC have hospital privileges; they also provide the option of home birth to low-risk mothers. When complications develop (such as the need for cesarean birth), registered midwives consult with obstetricians, pediatricians and other specialists.
You don’t need a referral to see a registered midwife. Check with the Midwives Association of BC to find a list of registered midwives in your area.
Women who live in Vancouver can also find a registered midwife through the Department of Midwifery, located at BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre. The Department is responsible for midwifery services at both BC Women’s Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. If all of the midwifery clinics in your area are full and cannot provide you with care, you can add your name to the Department of Midwifery’s centralized wait list .
Obstetrician – Obstetricians are physicians with specialized education and training in the medical management of pregnancy, labour and birth. They are qualified to manage serious complications of pregnancy and have surgical training for performing cesarean births. They are also usually the care provider for forceps deliveries. An obstetrician can serve as your primary physician, or may act as a consultant to your family physician or midwife if you have complications during your pregnancy or birth.
You will require a referral from your family physician or midwife in order to be cared for by an obstetrician. If you don’t currently have a family physician or midwife, you can get a referral to an obstetrician through a physician at a walk-in clinic.
Your options for choosing a care provider may depend on where you live. For example, not all communities in the province have family physicians who provide maternity care, midwives and/or obstetricians.
Labour Support – Some women choose to use a doula for extra support during their labour and birth. Doulas do not provide medical care and they do not deliver babies. Rather, they provide continuous emotional and physical support to the labouring woman and her partner, and are skilled in non-medical pain relief.
The BC Medical Services Plan does not cover the cost of doula services. To find a list of doulas practicing in your area, check with the BC Doula Services Association.