No time like the present
Some women mistakenly believe they cannot change care providers late into their pregnancy. While many practices stop taking new patients between 36-38 weeks pregnant, it is not unheard of to switch care providers at 39 or 40 weeks pregnant, or even while in labor (though this is rare). If you’re beyond 38 weeks, call the practice you want to get into and explain your situation. They may be willing to make an exception. If you can’t get past the scheduler, visit the office in person – even without an appointment. With your sweetest smile, let the person at the front desk know your situation and that you’re willing to wait in person for some time with a provider in the practice.
If you’re running into dead ends on your own, reach out to your doula or childbirth educator. “An experienced doula or childbirth educator knows your area’s care providers,” says Tracy Cuneo, CD(DONA), LCCE, an Atlanta, GA, area doula and childbirth educator at Graceful Birthing Doula Services, and student midwife. “More than likely, she has a close connection with a few OBs or midwives who she can call directly on your behalf.” Even if you’re working with a newer doula, chances are good that she is connected with other doulas who may be able to help.
Sometimes, limitations within your health insurance leave you with few choices for prenatal care providers. If you are unable to find a care provider who best matches your needs, there are things you can do to increase your chances of having a safe, healthy, and enjoyable birth. The following suggestions are good practice regardless of your care provider choice!
Be your own advocate. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially for first-time mothers and especially with care providers who are intimidating or aggressive. But the more you and your partner are able to speak up – especially during your birth – the more likely you will get what you want. Remember, your doctor works for you.
Attend a childbirth class. Being your own best advocate is easier when you have the education and information to back it up. By attending a childbirth class, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions and feel more confident about your choices.
Hire a doula. A doula is an awesome partner and knowledge source who can help you advocate for yourself. A doula does not speak to your care provider on your behalf, but she can help provide you with evidence-based information to make a decision and remind you of your birth preferences during labor.
Make friends with your labor nurse. Labor and delivery nurses are integral to your birth experience. They will not overstep a doctor’s orders, confront a doctor for you, or go against hospital protocol (their license is at stake), but they may have tips and tricks to help you achieve the birth you want. If you’re planning for a natural/pain medicine-free birth, request a nurse who enjoys assisting natural births when you check in.