Are you pregnant, or planning to become pregnant? This is an exciting time and one that requires you to make important decisions. Finding a maternal care provider should be your first priority. And, if you’re not yet pregnant, finding the right healthcare provider now allows you to plan ahead for a healthy baby and a rewarding pregnancy experience. The story of your new family starts with finding the right OB care.
Types of Maternal Care Providers
Today, women have choices about who they want to care for them through pregnancy and during labor and delivery. If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, you should find a maternal care provider you feel comfortable with and decide what type of birth experience you want.
Family Doctor. Family doctors historically cared for pregnant women and delivered babies and many women still choose their primary care physician for routine pregnancies. Your doctor can always refer you to an obstetrician in the event you have special needs along the way.
Obstetrician/Gynecologist. Most women turn to an OB/GYN when they are pregnant. OB/GYNs are specialists in women’s health, including pregnancy, labor and delivery and post-delivery care. They can oversee most pregnancies, perform birth-related procedures such as a cesarean section and handle unexpected complications. A Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist may be part of your medical team if you have a high-risk pregnancy.
Midwife. A midwife is a specialist trained in helping pregnant women who want as little medical intervention as possible while still having a safe pregnancy and delivery. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between a midwife and a doctor. Most midwives work hand-in-hand with your doctor, who can step in if you or your baby needs medical care.
If you don’t yet have a maternal care provider, ask friends and family members for referrals. Meet with the doctors you are considering. Are you comfortable talking with that person and asking questions? Research the doctors’ credentials and find out where they deliver babies. Convenience matters as well. Is the doctor’s office located close to your home or work, and do the office hours accommodate your schedule?
Where to have your baby
Increasingly, women are seeking a less institutional, more family-friendly birthing experience with minimal medical interventions. Some women choose to give birth at home or at an independent birthing center with the help of a midwife. Birthing centers focus on providing supportive care to women and only use medical intervention when necessary for the mother or baby’s health.
Most pregnant women give birth in the hospital where their doctor practices and where they are close to family, friends and medical care (just in case). The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends hospitals and accredited birth centers as the safest settings for delivering babies. Women no longer have to choose between a safe, but clinical, labor and delivery, and a comfortable, homey birth. Many hospitals now offer the birthing center experience with the peace of mind of nearby medical care.
Make sure your insurance covers both your healthcare provider and the hospital or birthing center you choose. Visit the birthing center or your hospital’s labor and delivery center; most offer tours to parents-to-be. Knowing where to go and what to expect before the big day can eliminate a lot of last minute stress so you can focus on what’s important: having a healthy baby.
Your Birthing Experience
Now is a good time to think about the type of birth you’d like to have. Here are 10 things you might want to consider.
- Who can be with me during birth?
- What happens during a normal labor and birth in your setting?
- How do you allow for differences in cultures and beliefs?
- Can I walk and move around during labor? What positions do you suggest for birth?
- How do you make sure everything goes smoothly if my nurse, doctor, midwife or another hospital need to work with each other?
- What are typical care practices for the laboring women you care for?
- How do you help mothers stay as comfortable as possible? Besides drugs, how do you help women relieve the pain of labor?
- What if my baby is born early or has medical issues?
- Do you circumcise babies?
- How do you help mothers who want to breastfeed?
If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, do your research now to find the hospital and healthcare provider you feel most comfortable with for the best birthing experience.