In group practice, a number of doctors work together. Their offices are frequently large enough to support extra staff and technicians who can do things like draw blood and perform ultrasounds without having to send you running all over town. Since there are many doctors, there's usually not much wait time to be able to schedule an appointment. And there are likely to be specialists on staff who can treat conditions like infertility without having to refer you elsewhere.
However, most OBs in group practice make it a policy to have pregnant patients see a different doctor at each visit until she has been seen by every OB in the practice at least once. This is because there's no way of knowing which physician will be on call when you finally go into labor. This practice can diminish any feeling that your doctor knows you personally and is charting your progress carefully.
"When I was pregnant with my son, I chose a large group practice close to home that had a great reputation. There were five doctors in the practice who delivered babies, and since at the initial seven-week intake appointment I saw a nurse-practitioner, I was going into my third trimester before I'd met all the doctors. Unfortunately, of the five doctors, I only liked two, and there was one I really strongly disliked," says Jennifer Skovan, 29, of Poughkeepsie, New York. "Because of my work schedule, I ended up seeing the same doctor at each appointment in my eighth and ninth months, but I was due at Thanksgiving, when he was going to be in Italy for two weeks, so I already knew that my son wouldn't be delivered by the only doctor who even recognized me."
Look for Similar Views
If you're fortunate enough to have an insurance plan with many covered doctors to choose from and you still need to narrow down your selection, consider how your philosophy on care-related issues matches up with the philosophy of the doctor or practice. This is especially important if you have strong feelings on issues like natural childbirth, IVs, fetal monitoring, and pain management during labor. Some things to gauge the doctor's attitude towards include:
- How closely she'll try to follow your birth plan
- When and how he would induce labor
- Use of epidurals and other pain management methods
- Use of forceps/vacuum-extraction techniques
- C-section and VBAC deliveries
- Postpartum breastfeeding support
- Experience with special situations such as high-risk pregnancies or multiples
Your OB-GYN can be a great resource and your partner in caring for your reproductive health. Taking time to select a doctor you feel comfortable with can help you maximize this important relationship, and allow you to have a more pleasant pregnancy, labor, and delivery.