Yes, you read that right. You should interview your OB for your upcoming birth. Sure, this provider has been there for you through annual pap smears, mammograms, random pelvic pain visits, and testing. However, birth is a completely different situation, and how you envision yourself laboring and birthing can be a completely different picture for the provider supporting your labor.
You hire a care provider to provide a medical service. This decision often dictates where you can birth and receive this provider’s care or care from someone in their practice. (On that note, because you are hiring your provider, you have the right to fire them too.)
Here are some ideas to help you navigate what to ask at your next visit or when shopping for a care provider.
- First, create your “birth vision”: how you imagine the moment of this birth. This is less of a plan and more of an outline for comfort, support, and goals. Use this to craft your questions.
- What will be covered during in-office prenatal visits? Will there be time to address questions during appointments? Is there a nurse line you can use when you have questions? Who else can answer your questions outside of during visits?
- Which providers comprise the on-call rotation, and will you have an opportunity to meet all of them? There’s a chance the provider you’re working with will not be the one at your birth. Meeting the group and sharing your preferences and questions can help alleviate some anxiety of the unknown.
- If your goal is a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC, what is your provider’s comfort level in supporting this goal? Some hospitals have policies in place that restrict laboring for VBAC (also known as a Trial Of Labor After Cesarean) without your approved provider available and on call for the duration of your labor. Some facilities have a “hospitalist,” a physician who cares for patients in-hospital only, who has experience with VBAC. Also, there’s a difference between not being considered a good candidate for VBAC due to risk factors and not being allowed to have a VBAC. Ask questions to understand why you would not be a good candidate and/or why you would not be allowed to have a VBAC if you desire one.
- If your provider mentions a scheduled C-section or scheduled induction, ask questions to fully understand the “whys.” Do you fully understand the reasons for your provider’s recommendations? What will your induction plan include? What changes can happen along the way?
- Do you want to move around while you’re in labor? Maybe use a ball to sit on for some hydrotherapy in the shower? Are you thinking about pushing out a baby in whatever position feels comfortable to you at the moment? Talk this out. Some providers do not feel comfortable with birth happening in any way but with you on your back, legs in stirrups. Often, this position is more for the medical provider’s convenience and less about the effectiveness of labor. (Even if an epidural is administered, you can move into various positions for laboring and pushing.)
- Are you able to switch providers to another in the same practice during your prenatal care if something isn’t clicking? Or switch providers completely?
- If you’re looking to have minimal interventions during your labor, is your provider comfortable with your refusal of things like cervical checks or labor augmentations (such as pitocin)? Are time limits placed on any interventions?
- Also consider the practices and protocols of the birthing facility, as these can affect your overall experience. Is the facility equipped with tools to help you, like squat bars and balls? Who can enter the surgical suite? Make time to go on a tour and ask questions that are important to you.
- Trust your instincts.
It can feel a little uncomfortable or overwhelming preparing to interview your doctor—I get it. But I promise that it can feel more uncomfortable and overwhelming if you feel that you aren’t being heard while you’re preparing to push a human out of your body.
Having a support team you trust and can communicate openly with can make a huge difference not only in your labor experience, but also in your postpartum recovery. Take charge, and good luck, mama!