Congratulations! The positive pink lines that have made their way across the pregnancy test strip you hold in your hands mean many wonderful changes are in store for you and your family. Many exciting decisions are coming your way, too—choices like baby names, nursery themes and possibly even upgrading to a larger family vehicle. But wait! Don’t put the cart before the horse. One of the most important decisions to be made regarding your pregnancy should be among the first things you address: choosing a health care provider and developing a labor and delivery plan. Here in the Kansas City metropolitan area, prenatal, post-natal and pediatric care options abound, so it is important to do some research to access the type of care you need and desire.
Start at square one. Check out KC Parent’s Labor & Delivery guide, where you’ll find a comprehensive listing of local hospital systems, midwifery groups, OB/GYN practices and pediatricians. Options are your friend, but if you find yourself drowning in a sea of choices, consider a few different factors. First, check with your insurance to determine which providers are in network (which may help limit your choices). Second, ask around for referrals. Knowing other moms’ positive experiences (and horror stories) can help you navigate toward a doctor that is a good fit.
Some women have strong feelings about choosing a female practitioner, because they believe a woman can better empathize with the pregnancy experience. Others may prefer a male practitioner that comes highly recommended or that they’ve had past experience with. Whichever you choose is a personal matter but one to consider when finding a physician.
Make sure the shoe fits. It’s important to look for a practitioner who will accommodate you and your labor and delivery plan. If you feel pressured into a plan that’s not in line with your overall goal (whether it be for a natural delivery or one with the aid of medical interventions), you may be better off looking elsewhere. Care can be transferred later on in a pregnancy if needed, though it is ideal to be under the watch of a physician long-term. Since most initial prenatal visits take place around 12 weeks of gestation, consider using the time prior to decide on a health care provider.
So, what’s the difference? Obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs), certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and select family physicians are all licensed, highly qualified practitioners available to deliver babies. Choice can depend on a number of factors, such as birth plan, where you hope to birth and whether or not your pregnancy is considered high risk.
Because OB/GYNs and family physicians are trained for surgery and high risk procedures, they have a reputation for using more interventions. That being said, just because they can use them doesn’t mean they necessarily will. These practitioners deliver exclusively within hospital systems.
CNMs are considered experts in low-risk pregnancies, using technology as an aid but relying more heavily on clinical experience. They do not perform C-sections or manage high risk situations but are considered an excellent choice for healthy, normal pregnancies. CNMs can attend births within hospital systems, birthing centers or at home. It’s important to note that research indicates both maternal and fetal outcomes are equally favorable when comparing OB/GYNs, family physicians and CNMs.
Do your homework. One of the best things you can do in preparation for your baby’s arrival is research. Be your own advocate! Your health care provider will guide you along in your journey toward motherhood, but it’s important that you take the initiative to stay informed about what’s going on with your body. Free online resources like www.BabyCenter.com (or the phone app version, My Pregnancy Today) provide weekly updates on what to expect each week of pregnancy and beyond, videos regarding birthing and feeding choices and an online community where you can correspond with other mommies-to-be with similar due dates.
Being part of a community of other pregnant moms can be exciting and provide critical support. Local support can come in the form of birthing or prenatal fitness classes, where you can make friends with other pregnant women and also learn a great deal about health and nutrition, pain management and breastfeeding.
Be flexible. Developing a labor and delivery plan is a wonderful way to prepare for your little one’s arrival. Courses on the Bradley method, Lamaze, water laboring and hypnobirthing are available to help you explore pain management options and build confidence in your ability to birth. Write down your plan to share with your practitioner, including pain management preferences, whom you would like to be present and whom you would like to cut the cord. Keep in mind that in the event of complications, the most important thing is doing what’s in the best interest of health—yours and your baby’s—even if it’s outside your birth plan.
What next? Once your baby is delivered, the search is on for a pediatrician. This hunt can be easier than you think. Your doctor or midwife can provide recommendations, or if you delivered with the help of a family practice doctor, that doctor can continue care for both you and your child.
Lauren Greenlee has experienced hospital, home birth and birthing center deliveries here in the Kansas City area. She writes from her home in Olathe.