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Other than prioritizing yourself and your growing baby, the next important step is assembling your birth team. This involves choosing a prenatal office for your healthcare needs, complete with the care providers you will need. Ensure you’re getting the best possible care throughout your journey—the best care results in a happy and confident birthing person.
There are many steps to choosing the right prenatal care provider. It would be best if you asked specific questions that will address your needs. After all, not every provider is for every client. What do you ask before choosing your prenatal care provider to ensure he’s the right one for you and your family? Read on for more information.
Who are the prenatal care providers?
Before asking your preliminary questions to your providers, it’s important to choose which type of provider you need and want. This is usually done when you find out you’re pregnant or before you have an idea of how you want to deliver your baby. The birthing options include but are not limited to hospital births, birth centers, and home births.
The list below covers care providers who serve at specific locations and those who’re willing to work at any place at their discretion:
- Ob-gyn: An obstetrician-gynecologist is a full-on medical doctor who provides medical and surgical care to women of reproductive age.
- Certified nurse midwife (CNM): With a Master’s degree in Nursing and additional midwifery training, a CNM specializes in obstetric and newborn care that is client or family-centered.
- Perinatologist: Another name for this professional is a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist. With special training in high-risk pregnancy care, a perinatologist manages women with special cases or relevant risk factors. They also work with other health care professionals to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby.
- Family practitioner: This is a medical professional who specializes in caring for an entire family. Some of them provide regular ob-gyn care, but may refer if they have high-risk cases.
Your pregnancy and birthing needs will determine which providers are available for you to choose from. Regardless of the healthcare professional you end up picking, do your due diligence by asking all the essential questions.
How can you find a prenatal care provider?
There are many different ways to find care providers. Learning about other women’s experiences through social media and word-of-mouth referrals has proven helpful. Your personal primary care physician may also have a referral list. The other option is your local doula or personal doula, who usually has an ongoing referral list for care providers in your area.
Don’t be afraid to combine all the resources and see which names appear more than once, as that may or may not be a good thing.
How much does a prenatal care provider cost?
Whether you want a home birth, birth center, or hospital birth, it’s imperative to check with your health insurance carrier to see what they cover. This will tell you which types of care providers you’ll able to consider in the first place.
Different providers take different insurance but check with your potential provider as well to be sure. Paying for a provider can be costly if done out of pocket.
Questions about prenatal care
At the beginning of your pregnancy, there’s so much to consider. You’re putting together your birth plan, learning what tests you’ll have to do, the vaccines that are safe to take in pregnancy, and the things to do or not to do. You’ll undoubtedly be scoping out the providers, how they practice, and who else may be involved in your pregnancy. Common questions to ask about prenatal care include:
- What are your medical qualifications?
- Do you practice alone? If not, who else is part of the staff and what are their certifications?
- How long have you been practicing and how many births have you attended?
- If I decide to deliver at this center or home and complications arise, what next steps will you take?
- Which prenatal tests do you offer?
- How many ultrasounds will I have during my pregnancy?
- Which vaccines do you give to pregnant women through your office?
- How can you be reached? What of after hours?
- What happens if you can’t make it to my birth?
- What should I include in a birth plan?
Knowing what your provider does for your pregnancy at each stage helps set the tone for the rest of your joyous time. These questions and others you may think of can help introduce you to your provider and how they do births. Hopefully their answers will make you want to learn more about the rest of your journey.
Questions about labor and delivery
You’re gearing up for labor and delivery in your head as the big day is metaphorically near. As you think of the providers to choose from, there are more important questions to ask and issues that need clarification. Here’s what to ask your potential doctor:
- Do you support labor and birthing movements?
- What’s your cesarean, episiotomy, or induction rate?
- What kind of childbirth education would you suggest?
- Would you be comfortable working with a doula if I hire one?
- Do you support eating and drinking during labor?
- Do you support vaginal births after cesarean (VBACs)? If so, what’s your success rate?
- Under what circumstances do you recommend intravenous devices (IVs), continuous fetal heart monitoring, Pitocin induction, episiotomy, forceps or vacuum delivery, cesarean section, and immediate clamping of the baby’s umbilical cord?
- What pain methods do you give?
Although this is all hypothetical, it’s important to know what your big day may look like. A birth plan works when all the essential components are on the same page, especially for the big day. These answers will help you prepare for what your birth may look like and how each scenario could be handled. Being educated on your options beforehand will help you make necessary changes and advocate for yourself and your baby later on.
Questions about the hospital and its policies
When choosing your care providers, their hospital policies matter too. You don’t always have to wait for a hospital tour to ask these questions. Your doctor should be able to tell you a few things about the hospital he works in. To ensure all bases are covered, here’s what you might have to ask:
- How long and often have you delivered at this hospital/center?
- Is this the only hospital/center where you perform deliveries?
- What do you enjoy most about this hospital/center?
- Where can I post my birth plan?
- What size are the rooms you deliver from?
- What size are the stay rooms after delivery?
- How many days do I stay after a vaginal birth?
- How many days do I stay after a cesarean birth?
- What materials will the hospital provide during my stay?
- Does the hospital have a nursery? If so, is it mandatory my baby goes in there?
- Is there a breast pump provided by the hospital if needed?
Knowing where you’ll be in such a big moment and making sure you are comfortable is such a boost as you prepare for your baby’s arrival.
Questions about COVID-19 protocols
Unfortunately, we live in the times of COVID and some questions need to be asked to ensure you give birth safely during the pandemic. Coronavirus safety protocols are updated regularly to accommodate the changing times. Therefore you have to stay up to date with the latest information and learn how every new measure affects your pregnancy, birth, and future.
- What are your safety protocols for COVID-19?
- Do I have to wear a mask while in the hospital room?
- Do I have to wear a mask while birthing?
- Am I required to take a COVID test?
- How many birthing companions are allowed, and are they allowed to ever step out of the hospital?
- How often will we be tested, if at all?
- What happens if I, my partner, or my baby tests positive for COVID?
This is important to know so you can adjust your birthing expectations and plans as needed due to the unpredictable nature of COVID. Hopefully by the time you give birth the pandemic would be over, and we’d have gone back to how things were before.
Questions about postpartum care
Research is evident on the pivotal role the postpartum period plays in perinatal health, primarily mental health. As it stands, care providers differ on what kind of services they offer postpartum. To ensure you’ll get the best healing during the 1st 6 weeks after birth, these are the questions to ask:
- How many postpartum appointments do you provide?
- What do postpartum services look like?
- What mental health services do you offer postpartum?
- What postnatal care will my baby get through this office?
- What forms of birth control (if any) do you provide, and what are their effects?
- Do you have a lactation consultant available here or anyone you can refer me to for issues at home?
Postpartum care is a vital part of the birthing process. These questions will ensure you’ll get the best services for your healing and your baby’s introduction into the world.
Questions to ask yourself before choosing your prenatal care provider
Ask all your pregnancy and childbirth questions, no matter how trivial they may seem. Then you should also ask yourself whether your observations and the answers you got met your expectations. The answers to all these questions will help you determine which care provider you’ll go with. Here’s what to ask yourself:
- Is the office location convenient?
- Was the office/center clean?
- How long did you wait before being served?
- Did you like the potential care provider’s style of communication?
- Did the care provider listen to your concerns and answer all your birth interview questions or did you feel rushed?
- Did their views on pregnancy and childbirth align with yours?
- Were the other staff hospitable?
If the answers aren’t a good fit, you’re more than welcome to switch providers, whether in the same office or to a completely different office. Switching is more common than you think, even in late pregnancy. Before you switch, check if there’s space for you with the new provider and if they’re able to take you in.
Healthcare providers have a wealth of experience and knowledge and they expect clients to come in with questions, but too often, these clients don’t voice them. Remember they’re a part of YOUR birth team. Knowing who is a part of your team and their role will help build your confidence during your journey and on the big day.
Please don’t get discouraged when it comes to finding and questioning a provider. Though most care providers have their way of doing things, they’re usually open to learning and accepting evidence-backed research. Remember, there’s a provider out there for everyone and you deserve to find the one that fits your journey.