According to the state Board of Registration in Medicine, there are 2,379 licensed OB/GYNs in Massachusetts. Finding an obstetrician is as easy as hitting the google button. But finding the right one for you may take a little work.
“Your relationship with your obstetrician is a bit different than it may be with other medical specialists – he or she is your partner throughout the development and birth of your child,” said Laura Baecher-Lind, MD, MPH, Director of Women’s Care at Tufts Medical Center.“ Pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most emotional and exciting times of your life. You’ll want to find someone you trust and are very comfortable with.”
Before choosing your Obstetrician, you’ll want to ask yourself some questions. First, if you work outside the home, you’ll want to decide if your OB should be near your home or near work.
“A healthy pregnancy requires between 13 and 15 visits to the office. You’ll want to make the appointments convenient,” noted Dr. Baecher-Lind.
You also might think about where you want to deliver the baby. If you have a particular hospital in mind, you could check out their website and look at which OBs are on staff and accepting new patients. You’ll also want to make sure that both the hospital and physician accept your insurance.
But once you have done the basics and you are meeting with an OB, what should you ask? Here are six questions that can help guide your conversation.
1. How long have you been in practice and how many babies have you delivered?
“Any mom-to-be wants to make sure the doctor is experienced, especially if she has any reason to think there could be challenges throughout the pregnancy,” said Dr. Baecher-Lind. Those challenges might include mom having other medical conditions, a history of difficult pregnancies, having twins, or being over the age of 35.
Those who are in this higher-risk category may also want to consider delivering at a hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). These specialized units are designed to treat babies born before term or those who are born with special needs.
2. Will I always see you when I come in for my appointments?
Most physicians are part of group practices, which means you may see another physician at times or a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. It also means that the doctor you saw for your prenatal visits might not be the doctor that’s there when your baby is born.
“There are a number of different practice models used today. Practices that use a coverage system where doctors rotate coverage of Labor and Delivery – so that doctors are not rushing over from the office or worrying about picking up their own kids from school – have been shown to be safer and associated with lower rates of cesarean section. Make sure you understand who you will be seeing so there are no surprises,” advised Dr. Baecher-Lind.
Also, be sure to ask who you can contact for questions during pregnancy. Is there a special phone line for the practice where you can leave a question and get a call-back? What if you need to speak to someone in the middle of the night? Understanding these types of logistics will help you feel more comfortable and confident during pregnancy.
3. Can you accommodate my birth plan preferences?
You may have certain wishes for your baby’s birth – such as being in a certain position when you give birth or hiring a doula or midwife to be on the birthing team. Talk these through with the doctor to see what is possible.
“Childbirth is more than a medical experience; it’s part of your family’s narrative. Nobody tells stories to their kids about their appendectomy, but stories about the day a child was born are recounted and retold for years to come,” said Dr. Baecher-Lind. “It’s important to talk with your Obstetrician about what you hope that experience will be like and how to best make the experience a safe and fulfilling one.”
4. What is your C-section rate? And under what circumstances would you do one?
If you are planning on having a vaginal birth and there are complications, your obstetrician is the one who will advise when a C-section is recommended for your health and that of your baby.
“Roughly one in three women in the U.S. end up having a C-section,” said Dr. Baecher-Lind. “As a specialty, ObGyn doctors are trying to bring the cesarean section rate down from these high levels, but we need to do safely, so as to ensure that mothers and babies are healthy
Your doctor may advise different positions, starting or stopping various medications, or even using extra oxygen to breathe during labor to help avoid a cesarean section. But sometimes – despite these measures – a cesarean section is the safest way for your baby to be born, noted Beacher-Lind.
“High risk pregnancies – such as twin pregnancies or pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia – will be associated with higher rates of cesarean section so it’s important to consider not only the C-section rate but also the types of patients cared for at that hospital or in that practice,” she said.
5. What are your views about pain medication during labor?
Whether you want to go “all natural” or you are fine with an epidural to assist with the pain, ask the physician for their thoughts. Make sure they are in agreement with and support your vision.
6. What do you like about being an OB?
The answer for this question isn’t as important as the way it is answered.
“This is a great question to tease out the passion and personality of the physician you are picking as your partner in this journey,” said Dr. Baecher-Lind. “You want to partner with someone who loves what they do. That joy will spread through your entire experience, making it everything you hoped it would be.”