Laborists: Specialists in Labor and Delivery

In the late stages of pregnancy, you're waiting on pins and needles for the moment when labor begins. And, in fact, so is your pregnancy health care provider. Despite giving you a due date, your doctor or midwife can't predict exactly when your baby will arrive. While your doctor or midwife may want to be present for your labor and delivery, that isn't always possible.

Enter the laborist. A laborist is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who specializes in caring for women in labor and delivering babies. The laborist works on site at the hospital, devoting his or her full attention to any woman who arrives in labor. Once a patient is admitted, the laborist is responsible for her care through delivery of her baby or until the patient's personal health care provider arrives.

The advantage of having laborists at a hospital is that a fully trained, well-rested obstetrician is physically available 24 hours a day. Laborists don't have to juggle a busy office schedule with on-call obligations. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists asserts that this model enhances patient safety and leads to better outcomes for mother and baby.

Laborists are used on a voluntary basis; a patient and her personal doctor can decide whether to turn care over to a laborist. Many women develop a personal, trusting relationship with their OB/GYN and may be uncomfortable with the prospect of seeing a different doctor while they're in the hospital. In this case, the patient should talk to her health care provider about having the laborist provide progress updates so he or she can seamlessly turn care over when the personal health care provider arrives. A laborist can be a key member of a woman's health care team when that long-awaited moment arrives: The baby is coming!