Choosing Your OB/GYN
With impending parenthood come many decisions. Will you stay home or continue to work? Will you breastfeed or bottle feed? Will you co-sleep? Which car seat should you choose? Arguably, one of the first and most important decisions, however, is the one which most soon-to-be moms find completely overwhelming: Who’s going to help me get this baby out when it’s time?
Having been through two entirely different pregnancies, doctors, states and hospitals with my own children, I can tell you that research is key. Your labor, delivery and subsequent care after your baby is born can affect your mental and physical recovery. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. From health providers to hospitals (and everything in between), we’ve got the basic rundown on each, complete with tips from veteran moms to get you on the right track.
First things first: You need to decide what your expectations are surrounding your birthing experience. Do you want to be able to move around when in labor or do you prefer to labor in bed? Do you plan to have an epidural or go medication free? Are you interested in nontraditional methods such as a water or home birth? Would you prefer to deliver at a birthing center? These are all things you should consider prior to seeking out a health care provider.
Mom of two La’Shonda Woodard says, “Ultimately, you want someone who will listen to your instructions, someone you feel comfortable with, someone who answers your questions and will not get annoyed. Someone who doesn't make you feel like a number.”
Here are a few types of health care providers to consider:
Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN) Most women choose this option. According to WebMD.com, OBs are specially trained to provide medical and surgical care. They spend four years in a residency program after medical school studying pregnancy, reproduction and female medical and surgical problems. Unlike a midwife, an OB/GYN is able to perform c-sections and use other medical intervention tools such as forceps, if necessary.
Perinatologist Also known as maternal fetal medicine specialists, these are OBs who specialize in the care of high-risk pregnancies. This includes women over 35, women with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, women with inherited genetic disorders and women who’ve had problems with previous pregnancies.
Certified Nurse Midwife Gaining popularity in recent years, midwives are specially trained and licensed in obstetric and newborn care. They typically have master’s degrees in nursing with a strong emphasis on clinical training in midwifery (certification laws vary per state, so be sure to do your research). If complications occur during pregnancy, labor or delivery, they may have to bring in an OB to assist. They are not able to perform c-sections.
Doula While not medically trained and NOT a replacement for a clinical provider, they do offer support throughout your pregnancy, including finding birthing classes and assisting in writing a birth plan. They may even provide assistance during early labor.
Once you’ve decided what type of birth you’re interested in, the next step is to select a health care provider. Olathe mom Megan Ptacek says, “I think the best thing for a new mom to do is ask friends, family and coworkers where they go; word of mouth and personal recommendations are the best referrals. I value their opinions over anything else.” Mom of one Kelly Lynch says, “I found out I was pregnant two days after I moved to KC. I had my husband (who is from here) ask all of his friends’ wives where they delivered and if they liked it.”
Once you’ve compiled referrals from friends and family, do some online research. Kansas City mom Carmel Clough says, “Get on the Internet and look up reviews. It helps to get a bigger picture of how they work with patients.” Basehor mom Ashley Askew says, “I watched their videos online to see which would be the most personable to me.” When you have picked your top three candidates, check your insurance. With Cigna, for example, the site gives you a comprehensive profile for each doctor. You can make sure they’re in network, check to see whether they have care designation, how many years of experience they have and their cost efficiency rating. Most insurance websites should provide similar information.
After you have verified insurance, I highly recommend interviewing your top two choices. Bring along a notebook with any questions you may have. Discuss your expectations up front. If you already have one written out, bring your birth plan. Last but not least, ask which hospitals or birthing centers the provider has privileges at.
This was my biggest mistake during my first pregnancy. With my firstborn, I picked the doctor that my friend had used with her previous pregnancies. I did all of the research, read reviews, discussed my birth plan. She was amazing and I loved working with her, but I neglected to research the hospital she had privileges for. My experience at the hospital was horrible, and I never forgot it. Suffice it to say, my horrific first experience resulted in much better research of facility options for my second pregnancy.
Every mom I spoke with agrees. Lynch says that taking a tour of the hospital solidified her choice of her OB/GYN. “I had a wonderful birth experience and plan to have my future children at the same hospital.” Ptacek agrees, saying, “You are limited to hospitals depending on your doctor’s privileges. Pick a doctor first and then tour the hospitals they deliver at to be sure.”
Nicole points out that it’s really a matter of personal preference and where you feel most comfortable. One mom might rave about a certain hospital or birthing center, while another may have hated it. So take the suggestions, do the research and write it all down, but remember to trust your instincts too. In the end, you have to do what’s best for you. Your baby will thank you someday.
Jennifer Bosse lives with her husband and two sons. She blogs at Tales of a Southern Sweetheart.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.