8 Things to Consider When Choosing a Doctor for Your Pregnancy
Found out you’re pregnant? One of the first things you should do is find a prenatal care provider and make an appointment. An ob-gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist), midwife, or family practice doctor can provide prenatal care. The key is to find the right provider for your pregnancy and preferences.
Here are some important things to consider when looking for a prenatal care provider.
1. Whether You Already See Someone You Trust
Already have a doctor that provides prenatal care? They might be the first person you consider. Or if you’ve been pregnant before, the doctor or midwife you saw could be the right one to see again.
In fact, it’s even better to see a prenatal provider before you get pregnant. “You should ideally find a provider before pregnancy and see them for a preconception evaluation,” says Christine Noa Sterling, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn in San Diego. The provider can perform an overall health check, and tell you steps you can take to help your fertility and start pregnancy as healthy as possible. They can discuss any concerns that may need to be managed during your pregnancy.
2. Word-of-Mouth Recommendations
If you haven’t already seen a prenatal care provider, try asking others for recommendations. Do you have a friend who recently had a baby? Ask her how she liked her doctor. A sister or cousin who is expecting? See if she recommends her midwife.
If people you trust like the doctor or midwife, it may be a good sign. You can meet with the provider to ask questions and see if they’re right for you.
3. Whether or Not Your Pregnancy Is High-Risk
Some pregnancies are considered high-risk. That means there’s a reason the doctor would want to watch you and/or your baby closely. It may be because of a health concern or factor that can cause problems with the pregnancy.
If you’re high-risk, you may not be able to safely see a midwife. And you’ll need extra monitoring by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. This is a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.
“Your ob-gyn will often be the one to refer you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist,” says Revere. A maternal-fetal medicine specialist will work with your provider to come up with a plan for your care.
4. What’s Available in Your Area
“A certified nurse-midwife is a great option for low-risk patients, if one is available,” says Sterling. Low-risk patients who are cared for by a midwife in labor have lower rates of c-section birth.
However, there are fewer midwives in the United States than ob-gyns, so some people don’t have access to midwifery care.
5. Your Health Insurance
Prenatal care can be very expensive if it’s not covered by health insurance. So it’s important to understand your insurance and what it will and won’t pay for.
You may pay significantly less if your provider is considered “in-network” for your plan.
Many insurance carrier websites have a “find a doctor” search feature that will show you a list of providers that are in-network.
“If you have Medicaid, you can call the office of your desired provider to ask if they accept Medicaid,” says Kristin Revere, a doula and owner of Gold Coast Doulas in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “This info can sometimes be found on a website as well.”
6. Office Location and Hours
“At the beginning of pregnancy, the prenatal visits are once a month and then go to once a week as the due date gets closer,” says Revere.
Since you’ll have to go so many times, convenience is important. Make sure you’ll be able to get transportation to your visits.
You should also check the office’s hours. Depending on your own schedule, you may need to find a provider that offers early morning, evening, or weekend hours.
7. Where You Want to Give Birth
You may want to deliver at the hospital or birthing center down the street. But is that where your preferred provider delivers? This is something you’ll want to double check.
“Most providers work in one hospital, while some have privileges in multiple hospitals,” says Revere. You can call their office and ask.
Many midwives only deliver at birthing centers. If you need to transfer to a hospital, they’d have to transfer your care to a doctor. It’s important to find this out in advance and understand who all may be involved in your care.
8. Your Unique Needs and Preferences
“My biggest tip is to make sure your provider is comfortable with your goals,” says Revere. For example, do you want an unmedicated birth? Are you trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)? Find a doctor or midwife who is supportive of your birth plan and has had success with helping their patients with those goals.
She also stresses the importance of finding a provider who makes you feel at ease. You should be able to freely ask questions and raise concerns. “You want to have a relationship where you feel comfortable with them both personally and professionally,” says Revere.
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