Finding the Right OB or Midwife; Questions You Should Ask

Author: Jennifer Usher, Labor & Postpartum Doula 

Pregnancy is an exciting and overwhelming time. There are so many choices to make and so many different ways to do everything. Then there are the things that you didn’t know you didn’t know! Choosing a medical provider, obstetrician or midwife, is an important step toward building a system of support through your journey of pregnancy and birth. Whether your ideal birth is in a large hospital with an epidural or medication free in a birth center or even at home, you want a provider that understands your wants/needs and aligns closely with your ideal birth plan. So how do you know if this is the right provider for you? These questions will help you guide conversations with your provider and give you deeper insight to their beliefs and protocols which will allow you to decide if this provider is an ideal member of your pregnancy/birth support system.

What is your general philosophy concerning pregnancy and birth?

Listen closely to the answer to this question. It will give you significant information on how they routinely do things. You will want to find out if they lean toward a more medical or natural approach and then decide which approach is best for your family.

How many providers are this practice and how is it determined who is available when I deliver?

This can be helpful to know as some practices are solo (with emergency backup) and others have several doctors and midwives. If in a larger practice you may want to ask about who will see you for office visits and if you will have the opportunity to meet the other providers.

Where do you deliver?

As important as who will assist in your delivery of baby, is where you will be delivering. Some providers will have privileges at several facilities and others may only have one or two they choose to work with. If you have your heart set on birthing in a specific location then you will want to be sure your provider is able to assist you there.

What is your opinion of birth plans?

Birth plans are a great way for expecting parents to educate themselves on their birth options and allows for decisions to be made prior to the “heat of the moment”. Having an ideal birth plan is something that a provider should be open to discussing with you prior to birth.

How often do you work with doulas and have you seen their benefit during labor?

Studies have shown that having a doula present can provide numerous benefits such as decreased need for interventions, decreased anxiety, and can lead to a more positive birth experience.

What routine tests do you require? Are there any additional tests you recommend?

Most practitioners require blood work at the start of pregnancy and there may be other tests that are required by their office, the hospital/birth center, or the state. They may also have other tests they recommend for women past a certain age or with certain medical histories.

What is available for pain relief during labor?

Some moms will want an epidural as soon as they feel the first contraction while other moms will choose non medicinal pain relief. Explore the options with your provider as to the use of a tub or shower, TENS unit, position changes, narcotics, and epidurals to decide which if any you may like to use.

How often and under what circumstances do you use interventions to induce or augment labor?

Each provider will have a set a criteria they are comfortable using to determine if assistance in needed in the labor process. You want a provider whose criteria is in line with your beliefs as well.

What is your C-section rate and what is the rate for the entire practice?

The World Health Organization recommends no more than 10-15%.

How do you handle 3rd stage labor?

Third stage includes the cutting of the umbilical cord and delivery of the placenta. If you are considering delayed cord clamping or placenta encapsulation you will want to let your provider know.

There are probably a million other questions that you will have for your provider during pregnancy but hopefully these will serve as a jumping off point to open the lines of communication. You and your provider may not agree on all of these items but only you can decide if they are non-negotiable. If so, then continue to seek a provider who fits your needs. Your provider is an integral part of your pregnancy, labor, and birth. They should be someone you trust completely help bring your baby safely into this world.

Here’s to happy, healthy pregnancies filled with love and support!