How to Choose an Obstetrician

By: Julie Fletcher

You have just found out you are having a baby. Congratulations! Now is the time to begin your search for an Obstetrician who will be there for you during your entire pregnancy, then birth. Getting proper care from as near to the time you have found out you are pregnant will increase your chances of a healthy and happy pregnancy. 

Beginning Your Search

By asking friends and family members who they have used for their Obstetrician, you may find your perfect fit. Listen to your friends as they speak about their clinic or OB/GYN office visits. Do they sound happy with their doctor? Ask them how their obstetrician validates their questions or if their doctor seemed to disagree and/or ignore their concrens, passing them off as minor.

If you decide to call several offices or clinics from a phonebook listing, ask opinions from the assistant who is taking calls. You may not think that a secretary will give you advice on the behavior or manner of her employer, but often times you will get an honest answer. If an employee visits another obstetrician for her OB/GYN needs, that may be a sign that you should, as well.

A Clinic Or Single Doctor?

When you are looking for our obstetrician decide if you would like to be a patient of a single doctor or in a clinic that has several doctors in rotation. Both settings have their pros and cons. With a single doctor, you will get to build a good relationship that lasts until about four to six weeks after the birth of your baby and possibly longer if you wish to go onto birth control. You may also end up with longer wait times if the doctor is very popular and has quite a booking for visits. If you choose a clinic with several doctors, you could end up preferring one over the others, but when you go into delivery there is a chance you will end up with whichever doctor is on call that day. 

Some clinics are religious systems and may conflict with your own beliefs. Be sure to check into the clinic you choose to see what their religious practices mean to you in your pregnancy and aftercare. In some cases, you may not have access to birth control at your after delivery check up.

Interviewing Prospective Obstetricians

You may visit different OB/GYN offices and ask them questions during your first visit to help you determine if he or she is right for you. Many women seem to have forgotten that the doctor they choose is actually working for them. You are hiring an Obstetrician, so it does pay to think of this as an interviewing process. Ask them how they feel about routine procedures such as episiostomies, IV’s, and enemas.  Does he perform very many ceserean deliveries? When you speak with him, does he seem interested in what you have to say and act as if he will honor your wishes when you work on your birth plan?

What hospital is the doctor affiliated with? One very important factor in choosing the right obstetrician is your satisfaction in the hospital that he performs deliveries. You can take a tour of the hospital labor and delivery floor by request. If possible, do this as soon as you think you have found the right doctor instead of waiting right before you are to give birth. Occasionally a doctor will deliver at a hospital he or she is not affiliated with, but most do not.

Male or Female?

The sex of your doctor  does not reflect on their quality of care. Some women prefer to be seen by female obstetricians, while to others the sex of their doctor does not matter. The former believe that women doctors are more likely to relate with their hopes and fears in ways a male doctor cannot. Whether you choose a male or female obstetrician is entirely your decision. Most of your choice should be weighted with the manner of the doctor and their quality of care, with sex as a minor point.

If you find that you are not relating well with your new obstetrician, you should look for another. Choosing a doctor is not a choice you are stuck with forever. Before changing doctors, you can talk to him or her to try and work out your issues. If you find that your obstetrician doesn’t  address your worries, it may well be time to move to another doctor who will be a better fit for you.

What About A Midwife?

Anyone who is in good health and is not a high risk pregnancy can choose to use a nurse midwife instead of an obstetrician. In fact, many OB/GYN clinics and family care centers employ a midwife to take on their prenatal patients who are low risk pregnancies. This lightens the load on the obstetrician, eliminating long wait times for the patients, and allowing a well rounded care enviroment for prenatal patients. In the case of a normal delivery with no complications, if you have been seeing a nurse midwife along with your obstetrican, the midwife may be who will deliver your baby if you choose. This will also depend on if she is available when you go into labor.

For women who prefer the care of a female health practitioner, a midwife may be a good choice. Midwives usually are more centered on the emotional aspect of pregnancy and childbirth and try to educate their patients on this aspect. A midwife will try her best to encourage you to personalize your birth experience and help you tailor your birth plan. She will still recommend surgical delivery if it is needed and all midwives have an obstetrician who is available if something unexpected occurs.

What If I Am Considered A High Risk Pregnancy?

If you have any chronic health problems, like diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, then you should talk with your obstetrician. It is possible that your doctor has experience in caring for high risk pregnancies. She will evaluate your case and both of you can decide whether or not you should be cared for by a practitioner known as a perinatologist which is a high risk obstetric specialist.

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