When you discover you’re expecting, your ob-gyn may be the most important person in your life for those nine months. They are responsible for your baby’s safety during the pregnancy and at the end will be bringing your child into the world, after all. Plus, they’re also the only person who can reassure you that everything is really and truly okay. We pregnant women tend to freak out, especially the closer we get to giving birth and sometimes even a spouse’s reassuring words don’t do the trick.
That’s why choosing a health care provider is so important. Beyond the basic important stuff: does your doctor accept your medical insurance, is he/she board-certified, there are 7 questions to ask when choosing an obstetrician: (and no, it’s not a slide show)
1. How many patients are scheduled for appointments during a routine day?
The answer may affect your quality of care and the waiting time for appointments. No one wants to spend hours sitting around a waiting room only to be ushered in and out of a lickety-split appointment. It’s a red flag if he or she has more than 30 patients scheduled in one day or the office staff is reluctant to discuss the schedule. Also, a doctor with too many patients suggests potential financial difficulties in the practice or an unusual emphasis on making money.
2. How many hospitals does the physician have admitting privileges to?
When it comes to hospital privileges for an obstetrician, less is more. It’s physically impossible for one person to be in two or more places at the same time.
But that could happen if your doctor has two patients from different hospitals go into labor simultaneously. It happened to me. I had to stop pushing because my doctor was delivering a baby at another hospital. The epidural wore off and I had to get another one which left me a big floppy whale by the time it was my turn to push. .If your physician is in a group practice, ask whether he or she has a “second” call system. If so, a partner will step in if your primary ob-gyn becomes busy with multiple deliveries or surgical emergencies.
3. Will you be referred to a high-risk pregnancy specialist if you develop complications?
Maternal fetal medicine specialists (MFMs) are obstetrician-gynecologists who have trained for three extra years to manage complicated pregnancies (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). They normally don’t deliver babies but instead advise physicians on how to manage complications.
MFMs are valuable resources when you need a second opinion, and your obstetrician should be open to their suggestions.
4. Will your doctor be available to deliver your baby?
Don’t assume that your provider will always be on hand to deliver your baby – vacations, emergencies and unforeseen occurrences can get in the way.
Ask about “Plan B” and meet any “docs on call” before your delivery. That way, you can check their credentials and decide if you’re comfortable with them.
5. Will your physician continue to see you if you lose your insurance while pregnant?
This may be an awkward subject to discuss, but it pays to find out in advance about your doctor’s policies on insurance and payment. These days, the loss of a job – and insurance benefits – threatens us all. You don’t want to discover mid-term that your physician doesn’t accept government-assisted insurance, such as Medicaid.
6. Does your doctor’s admitting hospital have a level-3 nursery?
A level-3 nursery or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides specialized care for extremely premature or critically ill newborns. We expect the best for all pregnancies, but emergencies can occur that require life-saving treatment for your baby.
Nothing’s more comforting than being at the same hospital where your baby is treated and knowing that you won’t need an airlift to an unfamiliar facility for more than $20,000.
7. If you choose a family practice physician or certified midwife to deliver your baby, when will they inform the ob-gyn if a suspicious fetal tracing (a check of the baby’s heart rate) appears?
Ideally, they should communicate with the obstetrician at the earliest sign of trouble. The fetal monitor, if interpreted properly, can be a good indicator of the baby’s health. An obstetrician should be notified before major problems develop.
What about you? Can you think of any other questions that would be helpful to a newly pregnant woman trying to find an obstetrician?