When you call your doctor’s office to let them know that you are pregnant and you need to schedule an appointment, you’re probably filled with excitement and anticipation. This is when your doctor will confirm your pregnancy and monitor you and your baby’s health all the way through your big birthing day. That’s pretty exciting!! Now that you’re pregnant, you will begin to see your OB or midwife a lot more frequently and build a different relationship with him or her. And after each appointment, you’ll begin to see why your doctor or midwife is a major part of your overall pregnancy and birth experience. Sometimes feelings of excitement can turn into anxiousness and apprehension. Those are the furthest things I want you to feel on your baby’s birth day.
First, it’s important to understand what type of experience you are ultimately wanting for your labor and baby’s birth. Do you want an epidural? A planned C-section? An unmediated birth? Once that is determined, you need to find out if your doctor or midwife is on the same page as you and if he/she is the right person to be your care provider. (Here are some questions for your OB to help with that.) But what if you start seeing some red flags during your prenatal visits and you’re beginning to consider switching OBs? Do people change doctors? Is it too late to switch care providers? What do I do? I have several birth doula clients who have had these questions after negative experiences with their initial care provider. That’s why I’m sharing what what you need to know and what you need to do if you find yourself wanting a new OBGYN.
Getting a New OB: What To Consider
1. What Are Your Doctor’s Intervention Rates?
Your doctor, doctor’s office, or hospital should be able to tell you their intervention rates. When asking about intervention rates, it should include inductions (for example breaking someone’s water or using Pitocin–which is used to induce labor), assisted births (episiotomies, vacuum, and forceps) and C-sections. If they are unable–or unwilling–to provide you their rates, that’s not a good sign. They may be hiding something. And if so, it might be time to look for a care provider who can answer those questions and have fair percentages.
Note: I actually encourage that you get your doctor’s intervention rates as well as the hospital’s. The reason for this is your doctor may not on-call when you go into labor. You want to know that anyone else that could be delivering your baby also has good rates, as well.
2. Is Your OB Supportive of Your Labor & Birthing Preferences?
If you decide to create a birth plan, make sure that you go over it point-by-point with your OB during one of your prenatal visits (or maybe go over it during several appointments if you need more time). You should be able to determine during your discussion if he/she is going to be supportive of your labor and birth preferences. If you get the feeling that they are not 100% on board, you may want to rethink things.
Another thing, pay attention if he/she uses the words “let” or “allow” when answering your questions. These words are heavy indicators that they believe they are the decision maker for your baby’s birth. Yes, you have hired your doctor to care for you and your baby medically, but they ultimately need your consent with each decision. YOU are the ultimate decision maker for your labor and birth. This is a good thing because your labor and baby’s birth will live with you for the rest of your life. Educating yourself and surrounding yourself with supportive care providers is essential to making it a positive experience. If you have tried to work this out with your OB without any positive results, listen to your gut and start seeking a new care provider who will support you.
I do want to say that it’s natural to feel that we need to listen to doctors and do as they say and leave the decisions in their hands. However, it is your legal right to ask for more information, to understand the benefits and risks to those options, and to refuse anything they offer if it is something that you do not want to do, especially if it is not a medical emergency. It’s the role of your OB to support you with evidence-based information and care, and to respect your role as the mother and key decision maker in the birthing process.
3. Ask Yourself These Questions
If you’re having second thoughts, think about why you choose this person as your doctor. Was this the doctor that you’ve had since you were a teenager? Did a friend or relative recommended him/her? Did they have amazing reviews and accept your insurance? Is their office location convenient to you? These are important questions to ask yourself so that you can remember why you initially chose him/her and if you chose them for the best reasons.
We spend so much time making decisions on other major life choices. For example, when we buy a car, or planning a wedding, or even planning baby’s nursery or what stroller to get. But when it comes time to planning and preparing for baby’s birth, many people spend a fraction of that time preparing. Do yourself a favor and spend more time learning what you really want for your pregnancy and birth care. The more you know the more empowered you will be. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂
4. It’s Never Too Late to Change to a Different OB
I’ve personally had birth doula clients change to a different doctor all the way at 38 weeks pregnant because they felt it wasn’t the right fit. They didn’t feel fully supported and they knew that they wanted a different outcome at their baby’s birth. I definitely don’t recommend waiting this long to switch doctors. However, I do want everyone to know that if you are that far along and you’re truly not feeling supported, you can get a new doctor. It may be more difficult to find someone that still has availability, but it is possible. You’re never too far along to get a new OB. So as soon as you start seeing those red flags start looking at your other options. I don’t want you to feel like you have limited options because you’re making this change late in your pregnancy.
5. Don’t Feel Bad for Your Doctor
Look, I totally understand that it can feel awkward “breaking up” with your doctor for your birth. But remind yourself that this is a business transaction. This isn’t anything personal, it’s just not the best fit for you. Plenty of people continue seeing their OBGYN for gynecological visits, but see someone else as their obstetrician. Just keep reminding yourself that you are the one paying the medical and hospital bills. You are the customer and as the customer, you have the right to switch care providers and should feel satisfied with your experience. Would you feel bad if you decided to switch to a different dentist or chiropractor because you were unhappy? No!
Whether you are at a salon getting your hair done or at the hospital having a baby, it is a service that is being rendered. This is all part of their job. You should never feel bad for someone else if it is only going to help you have a better experience.
Getting a New OB: What to Do
1. Schedule Consultations
Before you switch doctors, you’ll need to do your research on who you would like to be your new care provider. You shouldn’t have a problem finding other options anytime before 32 or 34 weeks pregnant. I recommend reading reviews, asking friends, asking family and local doulas. Doulas have seen many doctors work firsthand and know who’s great and who’s not. See which doctors are the most compatible with your wants and wishes. Of course, make sure that those doctors accept your insurance.
Once you have determined a few potential great doctors (who accept your insurance), call their office to see if they have availability for your due date. (Some high demand doctors book up quickly.) If they are still accepting patients with your due date, schedule consultations and ask them the questions that are most important to you. Just be sure to keep the bad mouthing of your previous doctor to a minimum. Keep it positive and make sure you mention why you think they would be a great fit for you.
2. Get Your Medical Records
Once you have officially decided to switch, you will need to ask for copies of all of your medical records. You can have them sent either to you or directly to your new doctor’s office. Make sure that they include all tests, lab results, etc. You may have to request your medical records in writing and have to pay for copies. If your doctor has sent you to a specialist, it’s a good idea to ask for copies of the consultation notes from these visits too.
3. Speak with Your Old Doctor’s Office Manager
Before you make the switch, you should also consider speaking to the office manager about your experience. Many practices want to know if their providers aren’t doing a good job, especially if it’s causing you to go somewhere else for care.
4. Consider Telling Your Doctor
On your last visit with your previous doctor, consider discussing your reasons for leaving him/her. This is the time to do it, but I do recommend bringing someone with you. Of course, be polite and respectful when doing so because you definitely don’t want to burn any bridges. If you don’t feel comfortable having this discussion face-to-face, you can always write a letter or fill out a form. This is information that they and their practice should know.
Good luck to finding the best care provider for you and best wishes for your upcoming labor and birth day!