Knowing what questions to ask and what level of care and comfort you should expect when you're expecting will help ease your worries and ensure everyone has a wonderfully memorable nine months.
Don't stop at just one
Interview several professionals to find one that best suits you and your partner. Scottsdale, Arizona expectant mom Elaine Dzik met with obstetricians, midwives, and even her family doctor prior to finding an obstetrician that she felt was right for her. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to choose a male or female doctor, have my baby at home, experience natural childbirth or opt for pain medicine, so I consulted several experts," says Dzik.
Giving birth outside the box
Today, many parents are opting to use midwifery as a labor and deliver option. Jackie Novak of Renville, Minnesota found this experience to be extremely personal and nurturing. "I wish we would have considered this as an option for our first child, but I was too scared to deviate from what my family and friends suggested," she says. According to Renville County Hospital in Olivia, Minnesota, modern midwifery involves the birthing process in the hospital, not in the expectant mother's bedroom.
Know who is treating you
Often patients find an informative consultation helpful to establish a relationship with their physician or midwife. "This can be especially helpful," says Denise Foster, RN, LPN of Milford, Connecticut. Foster explains that due to the nature of a patient/birthing professional relationship, developing a rapport is often easier "when you're not wearing a paper gown."
The ability to honestly express yourself and concerns to your professional is essential when you're pregnant. Make sure that you choose a doctor or midwife who you trust will respect your opinions and input and listen to your questions, concerns and ideas.
Although it may seem unbelievable, unfortunately there may be some individuals who are not as professional as you'd prefer. Learning there are any allegations or accusations of abuse or negligence against your obstetrician once you're already a patient can be quite unnerving. Consult friends, office and hospital staff, the American Medical Association at ama-assn.org , or The American College of Nurse Midwifes at acnm.org for information on your licensed obstetrician or certified midwife. Ask for the names of current patients who may be willing to provide a reference for the person you are considering selecting.
>> I hate my doctor. Can I change?
The right bedside manner for you
Just as no two pregnancies are the same, no two doctors treat their patients the same. If you respond best to soothing tones, a gentile demeanor and a compassionate nature, you may not do well to an outspoken individual who doesn't seem sensitive to your needs. Conversely, if you prefer a strong, take charge personality a soft spoken health care professional may not offer the right environment for your pregnancy.
Do you and your provider practice the same beliefs?
Some women strictly prefer the assistance of epidurals while others insist on a completely natural delivery. Others find it difficult to switch to an obstetrician after years of being treated by a General Practitioner. Knowing your doctor or midwife's practices and areas of specialty, threshold for your discomfort, testing regimens or schedules, and labor and delivery techniques means you'll find someone that best compliments your personality and child birth style.
Accessibility is important
There's nothing worse than not feeling well or suspecting something's not quite right, and not being able to reach your birthcare professional. "I'll always be grateful for my obstetrician's expeditious call back policy," sighs Jeana Grzelka of Crystal Lake, Illinois. When she began having pre-term labor contractions only twenty one weeks into her pregnancy, her emergency phone call was returned within less than five minutes. Crediting her doctor's proactive philosophy, Jeana explains "I don't think I would have my son if it wasn't for my doctor's accessibility."
Your birth partner, her colleagues and you
It can be disappointing or worrisome to become accustomed to seeing one person throughout your pregnancy, only to arrive at the hospital on the big day and be greeted by a stranger. Ask about the chances of one of your caregiver's colleagues attending at your delivery. If your doctor or midwife is one of many in a practice, ask to rotate or alternate appointments between your primary provider and his colleagues so you get to know the whole crew.
Selecting a birth care professional means you're also choosing a where exactly you will be delivering. Ask which hospitals your physician or midwife has privileges. Some women prefer to have a particular doctor regardless of the distance they'll travel to a hospital, while others base their decision primarily on the hospital. (Even if it's not your birthplace of choice, you'll also want to know what hospital to contact in the event of any complications or when you go into labor.)
Also give consideration to a growing trend of giving birth at home. Cindy Jefferson of Crystal Lake, Illinois found this alternative to rising medical care costs, hospitalization and lack of personal attention a unique option. "Our third child was born at home, and was by far the most emotionally comfortable delivery I had," she raves.
Another option that is becoming wildly popular is waterbirth. Combining several air pillows, soothing music, a bathtub or birthing tank -- together with a trained birthcare professional familiar with waterbirthing procedures -- many find this a soothing option that optimizes the experience.
Hidden fees or charges not covered by insurance may be a factor for some patients when formulating a birthing plan. Is your doctor or midwife sympathetic and knowledgeable about pre-existing conditions? Make a list of questions or issues you want to address to bring with you to a consultation or check-up -- and don't be afraid to ask them!
Doing it your way
There is no right or wrong way to give birth -- the main goal is to customize the experience as much as possible for your needs right now. That means the way you did it before (or who was the caregiver you used before) need not dictate your course of action now. Similarly, listen to what friends and family suggest --but remember that the final decision needs to meet your needs, not theirs.
Above all: Don't rush yourself to find the right caregiver. This is a rare and momentous lifetime event, so you are wise to spend a little extra time and energy to make the best choice possible.