Ask Questions

How to get the most info from your OB


Pregnancy is a time when you need advice and information from your doctor, and you’ll likely get it if you ask enough questions. But prenatal checkups can fly by so fast that you forget to ask. Or you may be too flustered to understand the answers.

“Many little things can get in the way of a woman communicating effectively with her obstetrician,” says Stephanie Teal, M.D., an OB-GYN at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. In fact, even the most self-confident expectant mom can use a few pointers on how to talk with her doc.

Know your doctor
To avoid disappointments, find out at your very first appointment if you and your doctor see eye to eye on important issues, such as pain control or the presence of a doula during labor. And ask your doctor to share his or her philosophy of labor and delivery, says Michael Genord, M.D., an OB-GYN at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. “This is a discussion that can build your trust in your doctor as you discover you share common goals and interests,” Genord says. Of course, it may reveal that your views clash. If so, you still have plenty of time to choose a different doctor.

Be informed
Read pregnancy guides, sign up for expectant mother emails and attend childbirth-education classes. This way, during doctor’s appointments you won’t be confused by unfamiliar medical lingo or unprepared when your doctor asks you to make necessary decisions, such as consenting to a screening test for birth defects. “The more knowledge you have about what normally happens during pregnancy, the better equipped you’ll be to take in everything your doctor says and does,” Genord says.

Get Schooled: How to choose the right childbirth class for you.

Arrive prepared
Write down your concerns before each appointment. “That’s the best way to remember all the questions you wanted to ask,” Teal says. If your “need to discuss” list is long, show courtesy by calling ahead to ask if you should book a double appointment.

Leave young children home... And turn off your cell phone.
The fewer distractions you must contend with, the better you’ll be able to focus on the exam and consultation,” says Johanna Abernathy, M.D., an OB-GYN in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

... but bring your partner
If we’ve all gotten to know each other during prenatal appointments, we’re more likely to work as a team if difficult decisions have to be made during labor and delivery,” Teal says. She suggests that your partner attend at least three prenatal appointments and that you encourage his presence when you have a particular worry. “A second set of ears can help when it comes to remembering and processing information,” she says.

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Ignore embarrassment
Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor anything, no matter how offbeat, shocking or insignificant it may seem. “Odds are, your doctor has heard it before,” Abernathy says. If you’re worried that your question is trivial, you can always preface it by saying, “This may seem like a silly question, but …”

If you’re confused about what the doctor is telling you, you might say, “I’m having trouble following you. Could you tell me what you mean in everyday language?”

Don't expect telepathy
It’s up to you to explain what’s on your mind so you and your doctor can work together as partners to make your pregnancy healthy, safe—and enlightening.

If you sense the office staff or physician are dismissive, discuss this openly with them. A busy OB may be unaware that she or she isn't meeting your needs.