Last week I gave you a few things to consider when choosing a doula, so I thought I’d do a post on how to choose a care provider. (Also, I’ll be speaking on this topic Feb. 3rd during the Virtual Parent2Be Conference. Get your free admission!) When I look back on my own journey, I kinda lucked out with my provider. I chose them based on location and because they had midwives, and that was about it. I was working full-time, so avoiding traffic was key to keeping my stress levels under control. When you’re driving to so many appointments towards the end of pregnancy, the convenience factor is nothing to make light of. If convenience and the option to use a midwife are important to you, here are some additional questions to ask yourself:
- Is the ease of getting to my appointments more important than my provider’s philosophy of care and how that could affect my birth experience?
- Does my provider offer any options for telemedicine when my physical presence is not required? (For instance, can I monitor my weight gain and blood pressure at home and report these findings to my provider?)
- Is my pregnancy healthy and normal or am I experiencing concerns that require additional monitoring and tests?
- If I switch providers to a less convenient option in favor of a style of care that more closely matches my needs, can my partner, friends or other members of my support system help by driving me to appointments? Am I having trouble asking for help because part of me feels like I should be able to handle it?
- How do I know whether my provider’s philosophy is a good match for my needs?
If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to take a deep breath. Everything will be OK. With any decision that you make for your pregnancy, the most important thing is to take a long pause and consider whether it really feels right to you, or whether you are simply checking off a box on the to-do list. For instance, did you take a childbirth class, or did you take a childbirth class AND evaluate the information for yourself? Never take anything at face value. What’s true for someone else may not be true for you. There are NO absolutes in childbirth and there are never any “have-tos.” That is the nature of this complicated reproductive dance we do. The best formula for a satisfying experience seems to be a balance between proactive measures (“effort”), self-care (“pausing,” “resting,” “intuition”) and asking for help (“knowing your limits.”)
How to choose a care provider that works for you
So now we get to the root of the question, which is #5 above: how do I know if my provider and I are a good match? If you took option B (taking a class AND evaluating the information), you’re off to a great start and you should already have a good idea of what your birth wishes are. Do you wish to avoid as many interventions as possible? Then you need to find out what your provider’s individual Cesarean rate is (you’ll probably have to ask them directly, because the information is not often publicly available) and also find out what the Cesarean rate is at your birth facility.
Do you care less about avoiding interventions and prefer a more proactive style of care with defined policies? Then you’ll want to ask yourself whether you feel your provider is listening to you and addressing your concerns adequately. Although I personally believe strongly in the midwifery style of care, the “less-is-more” attitude of many midwives may not be the best fit for someone who prefers a more take-charge approach.
Also keep in mind that if you choose a midwife who is more medically minded or an OB who is more naturally minded, you may not receive the type of care you are expecting. So ask a lot of questions and remember that it’s always OK to switch providers, even late in your pregnancy, if you start to sense that you are not on the same page. Remember that no one knows your body and your baby better than you do, not even someone with a medical degree.
If you’re still trying to decide how to choose a care provider, you can start with these resources. And please feel free to reach out if you are looking for some additional guidance. I’d be happy to help.