How to Choose an Obstetrician
JUNE 09, 2017
Finding the right obstetrician to deliver your baby is a very different journey than the one your mother took decades ago.
"In those days, OBs told women what to do and women listened to us, without question," says Dr. Hope Ricciotti, Interim Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "Today, we want your questions. We want the entire experience to be a partnership."
First, you need to feel very comfortable with and confident in the person you choose to be your doctor. He or she should relieve your anxiety and you should look forward to seeing them at appointments. It should be fun to visit with them.
"Locating the right physician is not a one-size-fits-all process," says Dr, Ricciotti. "Sometimes you do need to shop around. Don't be afraid to interview a few doctors if you haven't found the right fit."
You'll want to ask the basics - about their training and how many babies the doctor has delivered. While most deliveries are perfectly normal for both mother and baby, you'll want to makes sure the doctor has access to specialists who can help should any complications for mom or baby arise. That means access to maternal-fetal specialists and to an NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
"One of the important things to remember is that when you choose a physician, your delivery is just one day, but you are choosing an entire team to care for you for an entire nine months. So you should pay attention to the staff from the moment you make that first appointment," advises Dr. Ricciotti. "For example, when you called to make the appointment, was the person friendly? Did they put you on hold? How long did it take to get in to see the doctor? When you showed up for the appointment, how long did you wait in the waiting room? Were the nurses warm and professional?"
Other factors that may go into choosing an obstetrician might be more practical - make sure your insurance plan covers the physician you would like to use and their location. Some women would prefer to have their OB located closer to their home or work, depending on their schedules. Some physicians work out of multiple locations, which can make it even more convenient for patients, so be sure to ask.
When you pick a doctor, you are also picking a hospital in which to deliver your baby, as most physicians are affiliated with a particular hospital. If you have not had an experience with that hospital, you may want to take a tour of their labor and delivery area. Some hospitals, such as BIDMC, offer video tours online as well as in-person tours.
"As you walk through, make a note of how people interact with each other. Do they seem happy? Does the staff seem attentive as they attend to patients, deliver food, talk to visitors?" says Dr. Ricciotti.
Finally, find out from your doctor how you can ask questions in between visits.
"This is a question I get a lot from patients - 'what if I have a question, how can I reach you?'" she says. "Sometimes little things come up like, 'should I take this cold medicine or is what I am feeling normal?' Many practices have a phone line you can pick up and reach a nurse during the day. More and more places have an e-mail system available. You want to ask this question and know you can reach someone."
At BIDMC, Dr. Ricciotti explains, there is a secure web tool called PatientSite, which allows patients to ask questions online and get a response back.
"It is another tool that gives peace of mind to the mother-to-be," says Dr. Ricciotti. "A good OB and their support staff should be tuned into this concept - making the mom feel like she is in the best hands possible."