When Your OB-GYN is MIA on Your Delivery Day

These professionals have you covered.

newborn baby on mother's chest Tina Rupp

As a mom-to-be, you probably interviewed OB-GYNs until you found the perfect fit. But what if you need emergency care or your OB-GYN isn't available on delivery day? Enter the laborist.

Laborists, also called OB hospitalists, are board-certified OB-GYNs who don't have a traditional office practice and instead see pregnant women in the hospital only. "Hospitals hire OB hospitalists to physically stay on the labor and delivery floor, 24/7, 365 days a year," says Rob Olson, M.D., a laborist in Bellingham, Wash., and founder of obgynhospitalist.com. "We're there primarily for emergencies to make labor and delivery safer for women."

Related: 4 Common Delivery Day Dilemmas

Recognizing the need for hospitals to have OB-GYNs in-house 24/7, Christopher Swain, M.D., founded Ob Hospitalist Group, based in Mauldin, S.C., in 2006. The company provides OB hospitalists to more than 45 hospitals around the country and, so far, its doctors have delivered more than 32,000 babies and have managed more than 4,500 life-threatening emergencies. In addition to emergency care, OB hospitalists also fill in for tired OB-GYNs. "They improve physicians' quality of life and increase patient safety," says Swain.

There's research to support the idea that laborists help provide better outcomes for moms and babies. A recent study looked at 24 hospitals, eight of which used laborists. The hospitals with laborists had 17 percent fewer preterm deliveries and 15 percent fewer inductions.

Lead study author Sindhu K. Srinivas, M.D., director of obstetrical services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, notes that the reduction of inductions may be the result of laborists' more fixed schedules. "Laborists usually work 12- or 24-hour shifts and therefore aren't trying to schedule deliveries around other patients," she says. "As a result, they may be more patient and less eager to induce labor, and fewer inductions could lead to fewer babies born too early." To find out if your hospital has a laborist program, visit obgynhospitalist.com.

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