Pregnancy comes with a host of decisions to make. From names to nursery décor, feeding methods to diapering options, moms-to-be have a lot to consider. One of the first decisions to make is who her care provider will be, though often women forget that they have a choice in the matter.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I met with my general practitioner. He asked me, “What kind of care provider do you want? Someone who will act more like a partner or a more paternal presence?” Until he asked me that question, I hadn’t considered that I had a decision to make. I figured I’d look at my insurance to see who was covered and find someone nearby. But his question started me on a path of realizing that choosing a care provider can make a big difference in my pregnancy and birth experiences. When I told my doctor I wasn’t sure, he advised that I figure out what kind of birth I hoped for and then make my decision accordingly.
I went home after that appointment and began researching, not so much about local care providers, but about birth. I soon realized that I did have a preference in how I hoped the birth would go. With those preferences in mind, I set up a meet-and-greet with a provider, so that I could ask her questions and interview her before making my final decision. For me, the right decision was to choose a midwife. Her birth philosophy matched my preferences, but I only came to understand that because of the interview process.
Interviewing potential doctors and midwives helps a woman consider her own preferences and her potential care provider’s practices. Asking a few questions early on can help women find a doctor or midwife who will provide the care she needs and desires throughout pregnancy and birth. The following is a list of 10 questions to ask, along with the reasons behind why they are important:
How many doctors/midwives are in the practice and will I have a chance to meet them all before the delivery room?
Many practices employ multiple doctors and midwives who rotate patients. It is possible that in a large practice, the mother will not have met the doctor/midwife before the delivery room.
What role will I play in the birth?
The answer to this question will help the mother understand if the care provider will work as a partner with her or dictate decisions without considering the mother’s voice.
What is your C-section rate? What is the main reason you preform C-sections?
While a C-section is an important surgery that can save the lives, it comes with certain risks to both the baby and the mother. The World Health Organization recommends that the C-section rate not be above 10 to 15 percent, but the national average is over 33 percent.
What routine practices can be expected in labor?
This can include electronic fetal monitoring, epidurals, episiotomy, induction, restricting food and beverage, restricting movement and walking, and more. Care providers approach each of these differently, some routinely using many of them and others who encourage more of a natural approach.
How do you feel about having a doula in the delivery room?
Doulas can be great helpers throughout birth, offering a constant presence and encouragement throughout the process. If a mother plans to hire a doula, she needs to know how her care provider will respond.
How often do you perform inductions and what are the main reasons you do so?
Due dates are not exact predictors of when a baby will be born and ultrasounds cannot accurately gauge a baby’s size, so it is important to know under what circumstances a care provider will opt for an induction.
Will you be present during labor or only during the birth?
Some doctors and midwives spend very little time with their patients during labor and arrive in the delivery room in time to catch the baby.
How do you support natural birth?
Not all care providers have experience in supporting natural birth. If a mother hopes for a more natural approach, she needs to know if options like water labor, birthing balls, movement, squatting and more will be available to help her manage her pain.
What can I expect in the initial moments after birth?
This is an opportunity to discuss delayed cord clamping; skin-to-skin contact; initial breastfeeding; delayed weighing, measuring and bathing; and more.
Do you support breastfeeding? Will you be able to answer my questions or is there someone you would refer me to?
Not all doctors are trained in breastfeeding, so it is important to know what sort of education a doctor has in this area, and who he or she would refer you to if he or she cannot answer questions and offer solutions.
Pregnancy is a nine-month journey of ups and downs that culminates in perhaps the most transformative moment in a woman’s life. So, careful consideration should be given to who will be by her side, guiding her throughout the journey.