Most people don’t realize that choosing your doctor or midwife may be one of the most important decisions to make in pregnancy. Beyond qualifications or birth philosophies, what matters most is that you trust your provider and they understand you. The best way to know if your care provider is the right fit for you is to ask them questions – lots of questions.
Many women in the United States and across the world will stick with the provider who has been providing them with gynecological care for years, or they accept the provider assigned to them by their insurance provider. Other pregnant moms choose their doctor or midwife based on the recommendations of friends or other doctors. If you are someone who wants to get a better sense of your birth provider, you may want to try to set up an initial consultation with them prior to your first official prenatal visit. Some birth advocates encourage meeting with up to three potential candidates (doctors or midwives) for interviews before selecting your provider. At these consultation visits you can ask open-ended questions to get to know the provider. Make sure to confirm that the visit is a consultation and that you or your insurance will not be charged for the appointment.
In today’s busy healthcare world, it can be tricky to get harried health care providers to set aside a free consultation with prospective patients. Nevertheless, if someone is unwilling to meet with you or wants to charge you for this introductory meeting, it might be a warning of how hectic their practice is or where their priorities lie. While the list below has 25 questions, it is likely that you will probably only be able to ask 5-7 questions and spend no more than 10 minutes with the provider. Another strategy would be to ask the doctor or midwife’s nurse or medical assistant (the person who works most closely with them) if they would be willing to answer some of your questions.
Your goal in asking these questions is to see if this particular OB-GYN or midwife is a good fit for your pregnancy care and birth philosophy. The approach providers take when it comes to prenatal care and birth can vary greatly from one provider to another. Asking open-ended questions are a great way to learn more about them and how they practice.
Here are 25 questions to ask when meeting with a prospective maternity care provider:
- What is your training? Do you have any specialties or areas of expertise?
- How many babies do you deliver a month?
- How involved are your patients in the decision-making process?
- What percentage of your patients are high vs. low risk?
- If a person of color, What percentage of your patients look like me? (if this matters to you)
- What is your cesarean rate?
- What is your policy on labor induction? For what reasons are most labor inductions scheduled?
- How do you support natural births (if this important to you)?
- Which hospitals or birth centers do you deliver at? Where will I give birth if I choose this practice?
- How many different OBGYNs or midwives work at this practice? If there are several, can I request to meet with each one during my pregnancy? Are there any that do office visits but that don’t deliver babies?
- Who will assist in delivering my baby? If talking with a midwife, Who is your backup physician in case I need a cesarean or other interventions? Is it possible to request a particular healthcare provider for my delivery? If not, will the on-call doctor/midwife be from this practice?
- Do you have any holidays or time off planned during my pregnancy?
- What are the after-hours policies? Are you available by phone or email for questions between visits, or is there a nurse who can provide advice and answers?
- What options do you recommend for managing discomfort during labor?
- How do you feel about additional support people being present during the birth? (i.e., doulas, family members)
- How much time is typically allotted for each prenatal visit?
- Will any of my prenatal or postpartum care be via telehealth and if so, what percentage?
- Do you perform VBACs (vaginal birth after C-section)? What’s your VBAC success rate?
- How do you feel about provider-directed vs. mother-directed pushing and bearing down?
- What is your episiotomy rate?
- What is your thoughts on electronic fetal monitoring and when do you think it should be used?
- Do you see any indications that my pregnancy is at an increased risk for complications or conditions?
- If I am not 100% happy with any options I am given over the course of my pregnancy, what will be the next steps we would take together?
- Do you agree to listen to me and respect my choices regarding my body, baby, and birth?
- If I have questions or need advice, how can I contact you?
When you ask your care provider open-ended questions like these, instead of just telling them what you want, you get to learn more about them. It is better to know earlier in your pregnancy if your care provider is right for you or not. Remember that pregnancy is a very personal journey and your OB-GYN or midwife is an invited guest. Be sure that you feel comfortable with their personality, professionalism, and communication style. As with any medical decision, do your research, consult your insurance, and go with your gut.