Let's face it—like it or not, your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB-GYN) is someone with whom you're going to be getting up close and personal. OB-GYNS specialize in the care of women, often dealing not only with their reproductive health, but also with general primary and preventive health care. Many women seek medical care from their OB-GYNS long after their final pregnancies.
This article focuses on the "OB" part of the OB-GYN. Pregnancy and childbirth are life-changing events, and when you're trying to find the right doctor to usher you through gestation and deliver your bundle of joy, it's important you choose someone in whose care you feel comfortable and secure. This may take some planning and preparation on your part—including speaking with prospective obstetricians to find a doctor who has views similar to yours concerning labor and delivery. When interviewing staff at an obstetrician's office and ultimately the doctor, consider the following criteria:
- Is the doctor affiliated with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (indicating that he or she graduated from an accredited residency program and is board-certified)? You can check at the ACOG website.
- Does the doctor accept your insurance? What are the doctor's fees?
- Is the doctor's office convenient to your home or office? If you become pregnant, you'll visit the doctor more than a dozen times—maybe more if you have a high-risk pregnancy—so make sure that getting to the office isn't a hassle.
- Do you feel more comfortable with a male or female doctor? It is important that you are comfortable talking with your physician and asking questions of him or her.
- If English isn't your first language, does the doctor speak your dominant language?
- Does the office have weekend or evening hours that fit your schedule, or will you have to take off from work every time you need an appointment? Note how long you may have to wait to get an appointment. Additionally, how does the office handle questions that arise between appointments? Will the obstetrician return your calls the same day, or will a nurse handle routine questions?
- How does the doctor handle after-hours emergencies? Who is on call when your physician is unavailable?
- Is the doctor affiliated with a hospital whose care you are comfortable with? Doctors only have privileges at certain hospitals, so if you've got your heart set on delivering at a new age birthing center with the whirlpool tubs and on-site massage therapists, you need to make sure your OB-GYN can see you there. If your pregnancy is high-risk, you'll want to deliver at a hospital with a NICU.
- Can you get recommendations from friends or family members who have an OB-GYN they like?
One Doctor or Many?
It's important to consider whether your physician is a sole practitioner or a member of a large group practice. This will have a significant impact on the nature of your relationship with your OB-GYN.
If you choose a sole practitioner, you'll see the same doctor at every appointment and be able to develop a close rapport with her. You'll know whom to expect when the time comes to deliver your baby (though it's a good idea to ask who delivers babies when the doctor is on vacation or handling another delivery). For many patients, it's important to have this personal relationship with a doctor, to be able to know she remembers you and is keeping a close eye on your progress. However, a sole practitioner is not likely to have the resources at her office to perform routine procedures like blood tests and ultrasound, so you'll likely be referred to local labs or the hospital for these. Also, a single doctor isn't as likely to have a wide range of specialties, so if you need treatment for issues like infertility or cancer, you may have to be referred to a new practice.