Choosing a Care Provider
I would argue that the most important decision you will make when you learn you are pregnant is choosing a maternity care provider. As an Evidence-Based Birth™ Instructor, I have the pleasure of teaching newly pregnant couples about this topic in the Savvy Birth Workshop for Parents. I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the issue in this month’s newsletter.
Most pregnant women have at least a general idea of what kind of birth they hope to have. Some plan to have an epidural as soon as they get to the hospital. Others prepare themselves for a “natural” birth. Some mothers feel comfortable inducing labor if they go past their due date, while others prefer to wait as long as possible for labor to start on its own. Many women view their provider as the “expert” and are happy to defer to their recommendations. Other women desire a more active role in decision-making about their care. These are just some of the many ways in which birthing mothers’ preferences differ. There is no one right way to birth a baby, and each birth is as individual as the mother who births!
When it comes to choosing a maternity care provider, though, these preferences often take a back-seat in the decision-making process to other factors such as whether their insurance covers a particular provider, who their friends recommend, and convenience of the provider’s office location. My advice to couples is the following: find out how different providers in your community typically practice, and select one based on congruence with your birth preferences.
What do I mean when I say, “find out how your provider practices”? Practitioners vary greatly in how the manage the labor and delivery process. Your job as expectant parents is to discover how your care provider manages a typical birth. Will your care provider be the one who attends your birth, or do they share call with other practitioners? Do they routinely do ultrasounds to check for baby’s size and amniotic fluid levels near the end of pregnancy? What conditions lead to the recommendation of induction? How do they manage a client with gestational diabetes? These are just a few pieces of information that would be helpful to know when deciding to hire a practitioner.
I often hear from couples who say the following: “I asked my doctor/midwife all of these questions and they said they were fine with whatever was in my birth plan.” I’m not surprised. Unfortunately, “agreeing” to a woman’s birth plan is not the same as congruence of the provider’s typical way of practicing with your values as they relate to childbirth.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to phrase questions to your provider that will “uncover” their typical practice, attend a Savvy Birth Workshop for Parents!