3 Steps to Finding Dr. Right

Choosing the best OB-GYN for you means asking a lot of questions. Here's how to do it effectively.

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Unless you’re a detective or have the last name Woodward or Bernstein, you may not feel all that comfortable asking your OB-GYN difficult questions. Why? They can make your subject—and you—uncomfortable, squirmy or standoffish.

But when it comes to your pregnancy, having answers to seemingly awkward questions should trump all of that: “What is your Cesarean section rate? What if I don’t want drugs under any circumstance? I want to know exactly what’s happening when it’s happening—will you give me the play-by-play?” Of course, you want concrete responses—and you don’t want your doctor to snap back, “What do I look like, an ESPN announcer?”

There’s a fine line between having the right to know your doc’s birth philosophy and practices and making him or her feel defensive and insulted with an aggressive line of questioning. The key, we believe, is not necessarily in what you ask, but the way you approach it.

Our strategy for asking the tough questions:

Step 1: Choose the right doc—for you

When you’re looking for an OB-GYN, or if he or she is already your doc, you still want to go over some questions before you get into the throes of labor and delivery. If you need to find a doctor, there are many online resources; see YOU: The Smart Patient (Free Press); friends and family make excellent resources, too.

Perhaps the most vital question to ask early is this: “What’s your philosophy on childbirth?” It’s an innocuous question, allows your doctor to take you through her guiding principles, and allows you to ask follow-ups in a nonthreatening way (“So what do you do if x, y, or z happens?”).

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While it may feel like an interview, most OB-GYNs will understand your concerns and are happy to answer questions, even ones such as, “Under what circumstances would you do a C-section?” The major point here is this: If you don’t like what you hear in terms of the big picture, it’s best to find a doctor whose principles align with yours well before you’re getting ready to deliver. This step— while perhaps awkward—eliminates most uncomfortable conversations that might have to happen down the road.

Step 2: Ask specific questions, but be gentle

There’s absolutely no problem asking your doc about anything and everything that has to do with your pregnancy and delivery. But there’s a big difference in saying, “What’s your complication rate?” and “What are the biggest complications you see? And how do you handle them, and what can I do to help prevent them?” Similar question, different tone equals better relationship with your health care provider.

Step 3: Trust, have an advocate, but be flexible

It’s perfectly OK to have a birth plan on how you envision your labor and delivery will proceed. But bottom line is that childbirth can be as unpredictable as a slot machine. What we’ve seen (anecdotally) is that the more you plan, the more likely it is that you will be forced to deviate from the plan. So we believe that instead of being forced to ask difficult questions during difficult times, the key is step one.

If you’ve picked a team that has the same philosophy as you (that includes having an advocate, such as your partner, a friend or a doula, who knows what you want), you’ll feel confident knowing that you’ve done your research and put your trust in a group of people who have the best interest of you and your baby at heart.

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