Choosing an Obstetrician

Besides choosing a name or what color to paint the nursery, choosing an obstetrician, or ob, will be one of the most difficult decisions you will make as a parent to be. For those lucky women who already have an ob/gyn they love, they will not have to conduct a search for one once they find out that they're pregnant. With a little research and legwork, you should have no problem finding the right obstetrician for you.

The best place to start in the process of choosing an obstetrician is with friends and family. Ask women who have had babies in the area for a recommendation — this is typically the best resource for a terrific referral. This may garner you the ideal Ob, but since different women have different preferences, personalities and needs, in some cases their obstetrician may not be a good fit with you. A referral from your gynecologist or family physician may also yield a good recommendation. It may be a good idea to check out local childbirth education classes for a referral from a childbirth educator.

There may be certain limitations that make choosing an obstetrician difficult — a limited selection of obstetricians who accept your insurance plan, deliver at the hospital of your choice, or a general shortage of obstetricians in your area. Due to the increasing cost and liability of practicing obstetrics, women in some areas of the United States are having an increasingly difficult time finding an ob. You may want to look at other alternatives, such as a family doctor who also provides prenatal care and delivers babies, or a nurse-midwife. Be sure to look for an ob who is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ABOG).

Once you have found a potential ob, there are several factors to take under consideration. You can schedule a short "interview" with the ob to discuss their policies concerning prenatal care, labor and delivery and how their practice is run. This will also give you a chance to get an idea of your ob's personality.

Personality

While one would hope that a doctor goes into obstetrics for the pure joy of shepherding a pregnant woman safely through the most important time of her life, this is not always the case. If you prefer a doctor that is all business, then personality may not be an important factor in your decision. However, most women would agree that they prefer a doctor who is warm, approachable and makes her feel comfortable and secure. If you get a referral, ask about the doctor's mannerisms, and if they pay attention to you during an exam or have one foot out the door. Think about the type of person you'd want in the delivery room with you at one of the most difficult, joyful, and emotional times of your life.

Philosphy

Discuss with your potential ob his or her philosophy on natural childbirth, interventions such as cesarean sections, episiotomies, and the use of drugs during childbirth. Is he or she a strong advocate for breastfeeding? If you can, get a feel about how strictly the ob manages a pregnancy — for instance, some doctors will chide you for a little extra weight gain, while others will let it go without comment.

The Practice

Some obs choose to go it alone in a solo practice — and while this has its benefits, such as more individual, personal care — it also has its drawbacks. With a larger practice, you have more obs to choose from, and there is usually a backup if your doctor isn't available for a prenatal exam or delivery. In this case, there is usually someone always on call for questions, concerns and middle of the night deliveries.

Pay close attention to how the office is run: is there typically a long wait to see a nurse midwife or doctor? Are the front office staff and nurses polite and organized? Is your insurance paperwork handled efficiently and correctly?

Questions to Ask your OB

If you're forced to pick an ob from a list, you can narrow it down with a few initial questions for the office staff, such as:

  • How many doctors are in your practice?
  • What is your after hours policy?
  • What hospitals does the ob deliver at?

The following are pertinent questions to ask your ob:

  • What is your philosophy on interventions during delivery?
  • What is the percentage of patients in your practice who end up with cesarean sections?
  • What is the percentage of patients in your practice who have episiotomies?
  • What is the percentage of patients in your practice who have VBACs?
  • What percentage of your patients are medically induced?

Consider the aspects of prenatal care and delivery that are most important to you, and be sure that your obstetrician is on the same page — a good fit between you and your ob can make all the difference for a smooth and stress free pregnancy and delivery.

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