Congrats! You’re pregnant.
Once the initial joy and happiness sets in, you may start to feel a bit overwhelmed and unsure of what to do first. While creating a registry or setting up the baby’s room may be the most enticing, the absolute first step and arguably the most crucial is finding the right healthcare provider.
If you already have your GYN that is also an OB and you are happy with the level of care you’ve been receiving, CONGRATS! That’s one less thing you have to do.
However, if you are dissatisfied with your current provider, aren’t totally sure if it’s the right fit or are in the market for a new one, it is imperative to take the time to ask the right questions so you can form the basis of your birth team.
There is nothing worse than being VERY pregnant and feeling unhappy or concerned that your doctor isn’t who you thought he/she was and now you are scrambling to find a new one. Or you were apprehensive all along and now you feel like it’s too late to change.
So before you get in too deep, do your due diligence. Take your time to ask questions, gather information and interview more than one provider so you can compare their principles, approach and method. Ultimately, go with your gut and choose the doctor or midwife that you trust and feel safe with because the success of your birth largely lies in the trust you have in yourself AND your provider.
While asking questions is so important, it is also essential that you KNOW YOURSELF. Meaning, do you want a doctor that takes the time to get to know YOU and your partner or are you ok with quick, more impersonal visits? Do you want a practice that has fewer providers so you can be sure you know each doctor and not get some random one on day of delivery? Or are you ok to have a practice with several doctors because you don’t mind getting someone you have no relationship with?
Another huge thing to consider is if you want a traditional obstetrician or are more interested in having a midwife. There is a vast difference in the way OBs and midwives view birth and oftentimes have different approaches to reflect this choice. For example, traditional OBs tend to see birth has something risky, needing to be managed or manipulated, controlled and heavily monitored. Midwives view birth as a natural, intuitive, physiological process that needs supporting but not necessarily intervention. That being said, there is no one way or right way. The best way is the way that works for you and honors your own beliefs and feelings around birth.
Keep in mind, some midwives don’t have hospital privileges and only do home births. Some OB practices have a midwife as part of the team and some midwifery teams have an OB as part of their group. Also, you may ask different questions depending on where you want to give birth. So use the list below but adjusted accordingly.
It is quite extensive so I suggest reading through it and deciding what’s most important to YOU. Obviously you can’t ask all of these in the first visit but use it as a guide while interviewing and then refer back to it as you get closer to your due date. It’s a thorough list that will arm you with the questions to ask so you can be as prepared as possible. And considering the magnitude of birth, it’s best to be as informed as possible.
Let’s dive in!
What is your birth philosophy?
How many births have you attended?
What many care providers are in the practice?
What is the likelihood you will attend my birth?
What is your training, education or certification?
How many births do you have per month?
Are you available by phone, text or email for questions?
What is your perspective on weight gain during pregnancy?
How many prenatal appointments do we have, how long do they last and what do they cover?
Are you planning any vacations, trips or other events that would interfere with your attendance at the birth?
What is your rate of C-section?
What is your rate of induction?
What is your rate of natural birth?
What percentage of moms opt for an epidural?
What is your mortality rate for moms and babies?
Do you have any concerns about big babies being birthed naturally?
Do you prefer routine episiotomies or do any episiotomies?
When do you do vaginal checks during labor? Can I refuse any or all of them?
What type of monitoring do you do during labor? How often? For how long?
Do you routinely use an IV or hep-lock?
What prenatal testing, including sonograms, do you suggest?
What, if any, are mandatory.?
Do you do the Gestational Diabetes screening?
If so, can I opt out of that orange drink and choose an alternative?
What is your stance on Group B Strep? If I test positive, are antibiotics mandatory at my birth?
How far after my due date do you allow, considering that my baby and I are doing well?
When would you recommend induction? Do you use natural induction methods first?
Do you support the role of doulas in birth?
Do you deliver breech babies?
Do you support VBAC?
Do you deliver twins?
Do you allow laboring in water?
How much will you be with me throughout my labor?
How long can I labor without intervention after my water breaks?
How long do you allow for delivery of the placenta?
When do you cut the cord?
Can I eat and drink during labor?
Do you support delayed cord clamping?
What positions are available during labor? While pushing?
Do you routinely give Pitocin after birth?
SPECIFIC TO HOMEBIRTH
What factors would risk me out of your practice?
How will you help me prevent these?
What is your hospital transfer rate?
What equipment do you bring to a birth?
Are you trained in neonatal resuscitation?
How much do you charge and by what date do you require the full amount?
Do you accept payment plans?
What is your refund policy if we decide to switch care providers?
How often do your clients get reimbursed by their health insurance provider?
Do you recommend childbirth ed classes?
Do you have experience and recommendations for prenatal nutrition?
What support, if any, do you offer to my partner?
Can you recommend a doula for my birth?
POSTPARTUM CARE/NEWBORN CARE
What postpartum care do you provide?
When and how many appointments?
What does newborn care consist of?
Under what circumstances would my newborn need to be taken away from me for treatment?
Are you comfortable with me declining bathing, vitamin K, heel poke, eye ointment, etc?
Can you help me initiate breastfeeding?
Do you check me for diastastis?
Can you refer me to a pelvic floor specialist if needed?
How long after birth can I resume exercise?
Once you have your first initial interview or appointment, consider this: How did it feel to talk to them about birth? Did you leave feeling excited or anxious? Were you able to get most or all of your questions answered? What was your gut reaction to the health care provider and overall feel of the practice? These are all key pieces of the overall picture as to whether or not this is the right fit for your birth.
It bears repeating that THIS IS A LOT OF QUESTIONS and may be impossible to cover it all in your first appointment! You may even be wondering what the “right” answers are to any and all of the above so let me just remind you again that the right answer is different for everyone. In reality it depends on what YOU want and how YOU want to feel about this experience. The path to motherhood varies wildly from person to person. What matters is that their answers align with YOUR answers so you are totally clear and informed and you can trust your provider to support the kind of birth you most want to have.