It is no surprise that many prospective parents struggle with the task of choosing an obstetrician. Despite the advances in health care, complications during childbirth can and do occur. Therefore choosing an obstetrician becomes the first of many important decisions regarding the health of your baby.
Perhaps the first place to start when choosing an obstetrician is to consider whether you want to use the services of an obstetrician at all. This is a difficult choice. Four out of five births occur without complications and can be carried out by a trained and registered midwife. Midwives can assist you in prenatal care as well as by coaching you through the delivery even before that special day arrives; however, choosing a midwife means that if something were to go wrong and would require surgical intervention, you would need to urgently or emergently find an obstetrician that could take over your care. Because of the one in five chance of a complication, many women choose to go with an obstetrician from the beginning. For some people, choosing an obstetrician is almost an absolute requirement. If you have a small frame or pelvis, if you are relatively advanced in age (for pregnancy!) or if you fall into a high-risk pregnancy category then choosing an obstetrician over a midwife only makes good sense.
Many people choose their gynecologist as their obstetrician. This is often a fine choice. The doctor knows you and your medical and gynecological history, which is a plus. Also, you presumably share a rapport with one another which takes some of the stress out of the situation. Also, pregnancy planning and fertility options can be discussed with your gynecologist/obstetrician from the very beginning. You should be aware, however, that some primary care physicians offer gynecologic services without provided obstetric care. Do not assume that your doctor will be there to deliver your baby. It is extremely important that you simply ask about this well in advance.
If you are choosing an obstetrician as a completely new provider, then it requires a bit of additional work on your part. Set up an appointment with potential obstetricians and determine if they are right for you. Ask about the rate at which they perform Caesarean sections. Many doctors seem to operate rather than risk potential lawsuits from complications arising from the infant’s time in the birth canal. Make sure that your obstetrician has a reasonably high threshold for moving to an urgent C-section. A brief conversation with a discussion of the topic is all that is required to get a good sense of the physician’s tendencies and preferences. Once you feel confident in your decision about an obstetrician you can enjoy the comfort of knowing that the birthing process will be guided by trusted hands.