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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! (At least I hope you are.) This is when your doctor will confirm you’re 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 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 is a major part of determining your pregnancy and birth experience. These feelings of excitement can sometimes then turn into anxiousness and apprehension. Those are the furthest things that you should be feeling on your baby’s big day!
It’s important to understand what type of experience you are wanting for your labor and baby’s birth. Once that is determined, you need to find out if your doctor 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 to recognize red flags during your prenatal visits and you’re beginning to consider switching OBs? Do people change their doctor? Is it too late to switch care providers? What do I do? I have several clients who have had these questions after negative experiences with their initial doctor. Today, I’m sharing what what you need to know and what you need to do if you find yourself wanting a new OB.
What To Know:
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), assisted births (episiotomies, vacuum, and forceps) and c-sections. If they are unable 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 hospitals (just in case your doctor is not on-call when you go into labor).
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 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.
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. YOU need to be the decision maker for your labor and birth because this experience will live with you and affect you for the rest of your life. 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 know 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 get the benefits and risks to your options, and to refuse anything they offer if it is something that you do not want to do. I just want women to understand that you are the one responsible for making informed decisions for yourself and your baby. It’s the role of your OB to support you with evidence-based information and care, and to respect your role as the key decision maker in the process.
3. Ask Yourself These Questions
Why did 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 realize why you initially chose him/her and if you chose them for the right reasons.
We spend so much time on other major life choices. For example, when we buy a car, or planning a wedding, or even planning your baby’s nursery or what stroller to get. But when it comes time to planning and preparing for their baby’s birth, they spend a fraction of that time preparing. So do yourself a favor and spend more time learning what you really want for your pregnancy and birth care. 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 because they felt it wasn’t the right person. They didn’t feel supported and they knew that they wanted a different outcome at their baby’s birth. I don’t recommend waiting that long to switch doctors, but I do want everyone to know that if you are that far along and you’re not feeling supported, you can get a new doctor. You’re never too far along to get a new OB.
Note: Keep reminding yourself that you are the one paying the medical and hospital bills. You are the customer and they are the care provider. As the customer, you are right and should always feel satisfied with your experience. 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. You’re the one paying, you’re the boss of your body, and you’re the one having to life with the experience so it is all about you.
5. Don’t Feel Bad for Your Doctor
Changing doctors during pregnancy is your right. Would you feel bad if you decided to switch to a different dentist or chiropractor because you were unhappy? No! This is all part of the job and you should never feel bad for someone else if it is only going to help you have a better experience.
If you have decided that you need a new OB, here’s what you need to do.
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 doctor. I recommend reading reviews, asking friends, asking family and local doulas (they know who’s great and who’s not), about 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.
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, FYI. 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 with 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!