Getting your Money's Worth

The Do's and Dont's of Calling Your Provider


How early is too early in a pregnancy to call my midwife or doctor? If I don't want to "bother" my doctor, how can I find out more about my medical situation? What should I do if it's the middle of the night and I have spotting? These are some of the recent questions readers have emailed and they all have one thing in common. They're all worried about inconveniencing or bothering their doctor. They're all looking for more information on their unique health concerns and yet, don't feel like their health care provider (provider - that's what we call midwives and doctors so we don't have to keep writing both) is the one to inform them. They're busy, see. Yeah, well, guess what—so are you.

One reader says she's had a couple of miscarriages this past year and doesn't want to take up too much of her doctor's time with this new positive pregnancy test she's taken. Another reader had an ultrasound recently that showed an amniotic sac but no baby. She had her tubes tied years ago and is confused. Yet, she doesn't want to be a pest and bother her doctor. What! Are you guys kidding me? What do you think you pay these guys for? For information! That's what 90% of their job is —dispensing information. The other 10% is hands-on medical care.

Unless you're a phone-junkie who's calling your provider everyday to ask what color tea cup to drink out of, it's unlikely you're pestering them. Let's set up some do's and don'ts for when to and when not to call your provider.

Do call your provider if you're worried, confused or curious about your pregnancy symptoms and don't have an appointment within a reasonable amount of time.

Don't call your provider for something non-urgent in the middle of the night that could safely wait until morning. Wondering if you can travel on a plane at Christmas can wait. Worrying about something you saw on the news can wait. Need more information about something your provider mentioned at your appointment? Call during office hours.

Do make and keep regular prenatal appointments and take a list of questions you want answered.

Don't leave that appointment until all of your questions are checked off the list. If your provider says he/she's too busy to answer them, (providing of course, you're not asking his/her opinion on nursery decor and baby names) tell him/her that you're busy too and need some answers. If he/she needs to dash out to deliver a baby or handle an emergency, ask him/her to call you within a day or so to finished your chat.

Do call whenever you have bleeding, pain or unusual symptoms you haven't experienced before. Feeling scared is a sign that something's wrong. Don't mess around. Maybe you'll get reassurance right over the phone but maybe you'll be sent to the office or hospital for further evaluation.

Don't worry about waking your provider up. Most have on-call and off-call nights. That means if your provider is signed up for on-call duty, he/she is fully expecting to answer the phone and run to the hospital whenever needed, all night long. It's the job they signed up to do. On the nights when he/she's not on-call, you're going to reach one of his/her partners. Don't be shy. Tell him what you need and he'll take care of you.

Do your own research and learn all you can about normal pregnancy and anything you have going on that's not routine. Read books, magazines and websites and make a list of questions you want answered at your next appointment.

Don't be shy about asking questions. There's a common misperception that question-asking makes you a nuisance or appear ignorant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Enquiring minds want to know. If you don't ask, how is your provider going to know what you do or don't understand. Some providers love using the big words. Tell them to break it down for you. Believe me, they don't understand the lingo of your job either.

Do expect to talk a lot to your provider's staff. His/her medical assistants, nurses, technicians and front office staff are very knowledgeable and likely to have answers to some frequently asked questions or know who best to refer you to.

Don't demand to speak with your provider immediately. If you're having a true emergency and the staff says, "go to the labor and delivery unit of the hospital," just GO! Your provider might be in the middle of someone else's emergency and you'll get quicker more appropriate medical care at the hospital. If your concern is a non-emergency, just be patient and expect a call back. Ask the staff who takes your message when you can expect a return call. If you haven't heard back within a reasonable time period, call back.

Do be assertive, informed and to the point. Your provider is busy and the more efficient you are with your questions and phone calls, the more time he/she'll have to answer them. Don't talk about your friend, sister or co-workers problems as an example of yours. Talk about you and your situation. Get to the point.

Don't be a wimp and figure your provider's time is more important than yours. You're busy too. Plus, you're pregnant. You and your baby's health are at stake here.

So, how early is too early to call your midwife? It's never too early. Once you have that positive pregnancy test—call her. She might just say, "Congratulations! I'll see you in a month." That's cool. You've established a relationship and she's now part of your information-team.

If you don't want to "bother" your provider, how can you get more information? First of all, if your provider makes you feel like you're a bother, you might want to figure out why. Is it you or is it her? Are you actually making a pest of yourself by calling too often for non-essential stuff you could get elsewhere or at your next appointment? It really isn't appropriate to call from Babies R Us to find out what type of diaper he thinks is best. Or, is your provider being arrogant, unavailable and intimidating? If so, find a new provider. You need one you can communicate with without feeling like a bother.

Middle of the night and spotting? Call! There's someone on-call waiting to take care of you. You'll probably get the answering service. Tell them what's going on; give them your phone number (make sure it's working) and they'll have your provider or his/her partner call you back.

Ultrasound with an amniotic sac, no baby and your tubes were tied? You're confused? Yeah, I'll bet. Me too. Call!

You're paying your provider for a product: Information. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Don't be a pain in the butt but don't be a wimp either. Be an astute consumer and go get your money's worth.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.