Most people don’t realize that choosing a doctor, midwife, or another care provider is the most important decision you will make during your pregnancy. In fact, your provider is the #1 factor in whether you will ultimately have a surgical birth or vaginal birth.
Many women in the United States and across the world will stick with the provider who has been providing them with gynecological care for years, or they will accept a provider assigned to them by their insurance provider. Yet, the approach providers take when it comes to prenatal care and birth can vary greatly from one provider to another. On that same note, one pregnant person may have vastly different expectations and desires for their birth than another.
The best way to know if your care provider is the right fit for you is to ask them questions – lots of questions. Particularly open-ended questions. When you listen to the specific language they use and what the implications are of their answers, this may create more questions you will want to ask.
Here are 30 questions to ask when meeting with a maternity care provider:
- What is your approach/philosophy in supporting birth?
- How do you support natural births?
- How involved are your patients in the decision-making process?
- What percent of your patients are high vs low risk?
- What prenatal tests and screenings will you recommend? When?
- What is your cesarean rate?
- What is your induction rate?
- At what gestation would you recommend a medical induction?
- Aside from due dates, when would you recommend an induction?
- In the event of any special circumstances, are you happy to negotiate on induction timelines with regular monitoring to increase the chances of spontaneous onset of labor?
- What locations do you attend births?
- When do you recommend I go to the hospital/birth center?
- How do you support breech presentation babies? Do you support breech birth?
- What are your thoughts on artificial vs. natural induction methods?
- When would you recommend vaginal exams?
- When do you recommend electronic fetal monitoring?
- What options do you recommend for managing discomfort during labor?
- Do you run a solo practice or are you a part of a group practice?
- Do you have a shared on-call system with other providers?
- Who will attend my birth if you are not available?
- Do you have any holidays or time off planned?
- How do you feel about additional support people being present during the birth? (ie: doulas)
- How do you feel about provider-directed vs. mother-directed pushing and bearing down?
- What is your episiotomy rate?
- How do you support the perineum during birth?
- I would like to be able to birth in the position that intuitively feels right for my body, how do you feel about potentially supporting birth in an upright position?
- Do you see any indications that my pregnancy is at an increased risk for any complications or conditions?
- I want [insert desired birth style and preferences]. Are you the best provider to support my pregnancy and birth preference?
- Do you agree to listen to me and respect my choices regarding my body, my baby, and my birth?
- If I have questions or need advice, how can I contact you?
When you ask your care provider open-ended questions such as these, instead of just telling them what you want, you get to learn more about how they would – or would not – support you in this type of birth. It is better to know earlier in your pregnancy if your care provider is right for you or not. This way, you have more time to search for a new provider, have further discussions, and avoid unpleasant surprises that tarnish your birthing day.
If you are not sure what your birth preferences are or what options you have, consider enrolling in a comprehensive childbirth education course. Learn what options you have, and how to best prepare for a calm, positive birth experience.