How to Choose an Obstetrician

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post called “Lessons From a Miserable Pregnancy: Choose Your OB Wisely.” After I received a call from a friend a couple of weeks ago, I realized that it was important to re-post this information.

This friend called upset, suffering from a serious condition common in women of a certain age who have given birth to a certain number of children. A visit with her current Ob/Gyn confirmed her fears. Instead of receiving information about her condition and options for treatment, her doctor simply gave her one choice with no explanation, then as she pushed her out the door threw in a quick, “And if you decide you’d like a hysterectomy instead, just give me a call.”

Women deserve better from their doctors, everyone deserves better from their doctors, and here are some ways to make sure you get the treatment you deserve whether you’re just starting your family or you’re ready to call it a day.

1. Think first about the hospital where you would like to receive care.
If you are fortunate enough to live close to more than one hospital, seriously consider choosing your hospital or birth center first. What made the frightening early delivery of my daughter even more dire was the fact that my hospital did not have a NICU. Her three week long stay in that hospital was tumultuous at best. I was told later by one of the nursery nurses that she was the “youngest” baby the hospital had ever chosen to not transfer. For more information on choosing a hospital, please read “Lesson Two – Choose Your Hospital Wisely.”

2. Ask your family doctor for recommendations.
Many family doctors have had years of experience referring their patients to obstetricians for pregnancy and delivery. Often they will know if the patients’ experiences have been positive or negative. However, keep in mind that many family docs also just refer a preset list of OB’s based on insurance constraints. When asking for a recommendation, be sure to also ask your doctor why they are referring that OB/GYN.

3. Search for a board certified doctor.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains a searchable database of doctors who have met and maintained the requirements for certification. By going to their website and clicking on “Find an Ob-Gyn” at the top of the page, you can easily access this database.

4. Check with your state medical board.
Most state medical board websites will allow you to search by physician’s name for state board disciplinary actions as well as history of malpractice judgements.

5. Interview several physicians.
By interviewing a physician and asking important questions, you will in many ways be able to predict both the experience and type of care you will have with that practice. For example, when I spoke with my OB about how often she performs episiotomies, she avoided directly answering the question by simply stating that in her experience most first time moms needed an episiotomy. I was not surprised when that same physician performed an episiotomy on me during the delivery of my tiny four pound baby.

Other questions to consider are:
a. What pain relief methods do you most often use with your patients?
b. What experience have you had caring for high risk pregnancies?
c. How often do you perform C-sections?
d. Do you perform VBACs (vaginal birth after Cesarean)?
e. Are you open to the presence of a midwife or doula during the delivery?
f. Do you support patients who wish to forgo pain medication and/or constant fetal monitoring?
g. What is your policy regarding emergency visits?
h. Does your practice deliver all of your patients, or do you work with other associates on a rotation?

Finally, listen to your instincts. That voice in my head that warned me of the bad things to come was not being paranoid and was not being “difficult.” If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would have listened to her. She turned out to be a pretty smart lady.

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  • Add in that if you are high risk, you may want to consider one that specializing in high risk births. With my daughter, I just lucked out that I had a doctor with that expertise. What I didn’t know was that I was going to need that at the end of my pregnancy.

  • When me and my wife were about to get our first baby. I was searching up and down for obstetricians. I think that it really depends on how much diligence you have at trying to find the best care and people possible for your child. References are by far the best way to find the best, because you get really feedback for someone who went through that obstetrician.

  • I really like your advice to choose your hospital before choosing your obstetrician. If you live close to multiple hospitals and one boasts a better track record than the other, you probably want to start at the better hospital first. There may be some instances where an obstetrician at the “worse” hospital is so good that you choose to use them anyway, but choosing a good hospital to start with is a good general plan. Thanks for the article!

  • Most importantly, follow your instinct. It’s actually always my rule of thumb. When you feel like there’s just nothing right, or you simply don’t like the way the doctor is treating you, don’t give excuses. You have a lot of options of good specialized doctors who can attend to you. I understand that sometimes your financial status or your insurance cover can’t allow you to go for a certain quality but by all means settle for the best. After all, we only get to live once, take care of your health the best way possible.

    Great post!

  • My husband is wanting us to go see an obstetrician and we both want to make sure that we choose wisely. Thankfully, this article provides tips on how to choose the obstetrician who will help us in starting our family. Much appreciated!