Pregnancy is an exciting time, and the right obstetrician makes all the difference in a new mother’s experience. Just like selecting any other health care provider, choosing an obstetrician requires consideration of multiple factors. With a little research, it’s easy to find the right obstetrician to guide you through pregnancy and delivery.
Factors to Consider
Many women select a gynecologist who also practices obstetrics. This can simplify the process, since the doctor and patient will already have a rapport with one another. However, if your gynecologist doesn’t practice obstetrics, it may be necessary to find another doctor. A great place to start is asking for referrals from family, friends, and other trusted health care providers. If you know you want to deliver at a specific hospital, call its referral service for a recommendation.
After gathering a list of potential obstetricians, think about other aspects of your pregnancy that can impact your healthcare needs during pregnancy:
Women who have preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes, epilepsy, or hypertension, may need special care during pregnancy. Ask each prospective obstetrician about experience with any specific health conditions. Women who are at particularly high risk for complications may want to seek a perinatologist or choose a doctor who has privileges at a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Comfort and communication are key to a successful obstetrician-patient relationship. Does the doctor make you feel comfortable asking questions, and answer your questions thoroughly, no matter how trivial they may seem? Does the doctor’s presence put you at ease and make you feel more confident about your pregnancy and delivery?
Some doctors are strong advocates for natural childbirth, while others are more open to working with mothers who may want medical interventions like an epidural. Discuss your preferences, and gauge the doctor’s support of those choices. Ask how comfortable the doctor would feel if a midwife or other support staff assisted during labor. Ensure that the obstetrician willingly supports your delivery preferences.
The single doctor or practice
Using an obstetrician who is the sole doctor in the practice means building a closer relationship. However it could also mean that prenatal visits get cancelled if the doctor is called to the hospital, and that someone else ends up delivering your baby if your doctor isn’t available. Meanwhile, using a practice with multiple physicians may mean less intimate relationships, but a greater likelihood of a familiar face during delivery.
Every hospital has different services. Some may not even have an anesthesiologist available 24 hours a day, while others may have dedicated maternity wards with a full complement of support staff like lactation consultants or childbirth educators. Research hospitals near you, and weigh your options. Then look for an obstetrician who has privileges at the hospital where you want to deliver.