When it comes to the health and well being of your partner while she’s pregnant, knowing how to find the right doctor for her prenatal, labor, and postpartum needs – as well as those of your child, before and after birth – is a crucial first step in the pregnancy journey.

There are several types of healthcare providers who practice or specialize in prenatal care for both mom and baby. Even though you’re not the one who will be under the care of the chosen medical practitioner, understanding the different types of providers and helping your partner make an informed decision about who to choose will set you both down a path toward a comfortable and enjoyable pregnancy.

Below we’ve provided information and tips to help you choose the best healthcare options for your partner during her pregnancy and for baby after he or she is born!

Types of pregnancy healthcare providers

How you imagine the childbirth process going depends entirely on your experience with it. If you’ve never gone through it personally, there’s a good chance that you’re unfamiliar with a lot of the options for obstetric care.

  • Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB GYN) 
    The OB GYN is a medical doctor who specializes in medical and surgical care for women. Obstetricians are specialists whose focus is on the intricacies of pregnancy. Gynecologists primarily provide expertise with the care of the female reproductive system. An OB GYN’s credentials can be verified by going to this website.
  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)
    No, a midwife isn’t some long-lost 18th century profession for crusty old women. Truthfully, they’re much more! Each certified nurse midwife is specially trained and licensed to provide professional obstetric and newborn care as well as comprehensive family-oriented care starting from the first prenatal visit all the way through labor and delivery and after the birth.
  • Perinatologist
    A perinatologist is an obstetrician who specializes in the care of women who are at risk for having problems with their pregnancies. These cases include women older than 35, with certain medical conditions, genetic disorders, and issues with previous pregnancies.
  • Doula
    A doula doesn’t provide clinical care. Instead, he or she will assist the family throughout the childbearing year with finding appropriate birthing classes, teaching birthing techniques, helping write birthing plans, and providing early labor support at home. A doula doesn’t provide clinical support so he or she won’t replace your partner’s obstetric care provider.

How to choose the appropriate provider

There are several different things to take into consideration when you and your partner are considering which type of practitioner to choose from. First, is your partner in an at-risk category which would require a specialized obstetrician, like a perinatologist?

If your partner is younger than 18 or older than 35, has diabetes, hypertension, or sexually transmitted diseases (STD), has a genetic disorder, or had problems with prior pregnancies, consulting a specialist will be appropriate. If not, her regular OB GYN, family practitioner, or a midwife could be an option.

How to narrow down the choices

Once you and your partner have decided whether or not a specialist will be necessary, determining which doctor or midwife will be the best option for you will be the next thing to do. Chances are, depending on where you live, you’ll have several to choose from.

The first thing you’ll want to do is call your local medical facility, whether it’s a hospital or birthing center, and ask which practitioners are accepting new patients. Make a list and set up an appointment to meet with each of them. Next, you’ll want to come up with a list of questions to ask each of them to get a better idea of their experience.

We’ve come up with some questions to get your list started:

  • Where and when did you receive your training?
  • Are you board certified?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • How many babies have you delivered?
  • Do you have any children?
  • What are your philosophies about pregnancy, labor, and delivery? (You’ll want to see if they align with yours)
  • What’s your policy on inducing labor?
  • What’s your cesarean policy and delivery rate?
  • Are you in a group practice? If so, will we get to meet all the doctors in your practice?
  • Will we get to provide our own birth plan and will it be honored?

Where will baby be born?

Does your partner have a specific place she wants to give birth? If so, you’ll want to make sure that the doctors or midwives you talk to have permission to deliver there. Many hospitals and birthing centers work with specific private practices to ensure they know exactly who will be delivering babies in their facility.

You may even consider finding the place you’d like to have your baby delivered before finding the practitioner who’ll actually do the delivery. Here are some things to think about when looking at locations:

  • How far is the hospital/birthing center from your home?
  • Does the hospital/birthing center offer tours?
  • Does the hospital/birthing center work with the practitioner we’ve chosen?
  • What are the procedures for when a woman in labor arrives?
  • Does the hospital/birthing center have a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?
  • Does the baby stay in the room with mom or go to a nursery?
  • Can I stay in the room overnight with my partner?
  • Can I go into the operating room if my partner needs a cesarean?
  • Who can come to visit and when?
  • Is labor, delivery, and recovery done all in one room?
  • Is it a teaching hospital/birthing center? If so, can we refuse to have students if we want?
  • Does it cost to park?

Home births

If your partner is considering a home birth, there are several things to consider. First, most doctors and midwives in America won’t agree to do home births because there can be any number of life-threatening complications for both the mother and baby and most homes are too far away from the hospital to provide safe, timely escort in case a complication arises.

If a home birth is the direction your partner wants to go, talk to the providers you’re considering to answer and questions or concerns you may be having.

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Finding the right pediatrician for your baby

With all the excitement that comes with pregnancy, you might think it’s a bit early to start thinking about finding a pediatrician for your baby. However, many hospitals actually require you to provide the name and contact information for your child’s doctor before he or she is even born.

They ask for this information because many doctors require the baby to be seen by the pediatrician a couple of weeks after the child is born. Finding the right pediatrician is very similar to finding the right doctor for the delivery.

The first thing you’ll want to do is research. Find which doctors are near you and what their reviews from other clients are. If you think looking at all the options is overwhelming, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers a useful referral site to help.

Interviewing the doctor

Once you’ve selected a few doctors in your area which you think will be a good fit, the next thing you’ll want to do is set up an appointment to meet face-to-face. This will give you the opportunity to get to know the pediatrician more personally and to gauge whether or not he or she will be a good choice for your family.

In addition to what’s important for you in a doctor for your child, here are some helpful questions to ask:

  1. How long do you think my partner should breastfeed?
  2. What’s your standpoint on circumcision?
  3. What’s your stance on vaccines?
  4. Are you a parent?
  5. How long have you been practicing?
  6. Are you board certified?
  7. Are you a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics?
  8. What’s your sick visit policy?

It’s important to remember that you’re not the first person to ask these questions, so don’t hesitate to ask whatever’s on your mind. Choosing the right doctor for your child is a major decision to make and shouldn’t be made lightly. With that in mind, don’t disregard your gut. Even if the doctor says everything right, if you have reservations about him or her, don’t feel bad about shopping around.

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