How to find the perfect midwife or OBGYN for your birth

January 6 | Guest post by Therese Charvet
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.

You have mentioned the necessity of finding a health practitioner you trust and feel a connection with. Do you have any tips for how to go about this? Are there particular questions you recommend asking to help "screen" potential midwives and doctors? Any responses that should trigger a warning?

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Thanks to KristinaMcB for submitting this shot to the Offbeat Mama pool!
The very first step is to take some time to read and talk with your partner and others so as to clarify what is most important to you about your birth experience. For example, if you feel strongly that you want to give birth in the hospital, a birth center, or at home, if you want a woman or a man as a birth attendant, if you would like pain-relieving medication as an option or not, if you feel safer with high-tech medical care close at hand or as far away as possible.

There are many choices these days around style of birth, so clarifying your “best case scenario” is an essential step in finding the right practitioner. Once you are clear, if at all possible, arrange to have interviews/appointments with 2 or 3 different practitioners, ideally people who have been recommended highly by a woman who has had her/him as a birth attendant and who shares some of your values around your preferred birth style.

When you have the interview/appointment, ask the practitioner to speak about their thoughts/beliefs about the various elements of your preferred birth that are most important to you. Ask open-ended questions so you don’t necessarily let them know what your preferences are. You want to know where they stand. Ask to see the place where you would give birth (birth center, hospital room etc) and see how it feels to you.

Questions to ask if you want a natural birth:

Ask open-ended questions so you don’t necessarily let them know what your preferences are. You want to know where they stand.

  • What is your C-section rate?
  • How often are your births un-medicated?

If you are interviewing a midwife:

  • How many births have you attended?
  • How did you get your training?
  • What are our back-up arrangements in case of problems? (If an out-of-hospital birth)

See if you can arrange to talk to some other women that midwife has delivered, at least one who had problems and transferred to the hospital. Did they feel well taken care of despite the problem? Did they feel confident of the midwife’s ability to screen and deal with the complication?

This is by far the most important factor in choosing the right person—your sense of trust and confidence.

Most importantly, whether the practitioner be a doctor, nurse-midwife, nurse-practitioner, licensed or unlicensed midwife, feel this question out with your intuition: does this person inspire your trust? Can you let go and surrender and feel confident that you are in good hands? Do you feel you will be treated respectfully and that your preferences will be honored if at all possible? This is by far the most important factor in choosing the right person—your sense of trust and confidence.

A few red flags:

  • A condescending attitude and being treated like a child (i.e. “Don’t ask too many questions, honey, just leave it to the experts.”)
  • Somebody who seems really inexperienced or poorly trained and can’t answer your questions
  • Somebody who treats you like a cog in the wheel, feels that your concerns are insignificant, or who doesn’t share your values around the kind of birth you want.

I hope this is helpful to all you off-beat mama’s out there! Whatever happens, may you feel respected, loved and honored during this amazing rite-of-passage experience!

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  1. well said! i didn't know what to expect when i interviewed my midwife. But after her coming to my home and spending almost 2 hours talking about her beliefs, training, experience, problems she's had and been into, good and bad birth stories…i was very impressed. Trust your instinct, if there is something your uneasy about, there is probably a good reason for it. You should feel important to them and not just feel like a number.

  2. For me I have very limited choice. Tricare tells me I have to use the Women's Health Clinic on post and so that is where I must go and since I am not high risk I will only be assigned to a midwife, not an OB. How's that for government run healthcare? But within the clinic I do have my choice somewhat of providers. I chose the only Catholic provider for this pregnancy (#3) because I was irritated at the constant questions concerning my birth control choice with my last pregnancy. I was asked while pushing for goodness sake!

    I think choice of provider is important. Go with someone you click with :).

    1 agrees
  3. As an L&D nurse in an Orange County hospital that does 450 deliveries a month to a broad range of diagnoses/cultures/ethnicities, I've seen it all. My recommendation is to research where you want to give birth, just like it says above. If a hospital is your preference, or you want to have one as the Plan B in case of emergencies, then pick that first, and then your provider. The unfortunate reality of the OB world is that you will spend a grand total of maybe 15 minutes with the actual doctor on the big day, plus he/she may be not be on call when you deliver. When looking at hospitals, definitely take a tour, look into what kind of pre/post partum classes they offer, what is their access to a higher level of NICU (because babies can and WILL deliver preterm and/or with complications despite the best laid plans), other people's experience with the nurses and staff (because, again, you see the doctors when you are 2 pushes from delivering) and look into which ones have the Baby Friendly designation from the World Health Organization/UNICEF. This is a multi-year process a hospital must go through to prove they are providing the gold standard of patient centered care to families (breast feeding first, skin to skin contact after delivery, bonding immediately after C-sections, etc). After you've found the place, then look who has privileges there. Check the hospital's website because many of them list the physicians with attending privileges by specialty. And after all that, just remember to educate yourself as much as possible, and expect the unexpected because that's how the next 18+ years are going to go. It's not how you bring the child into the world despite the best of intentions, but the love you have and how your raise them to better the world. Good luck and congratulations!!

    1 agrees
    • This! The only midwives near me have a website that is *virulently* against pain medication or other "unnatural" assistance. Women who'd had such things we "victims of the System". It came on very strong. This really rubbed me the wrong way because the sense I got from them is that they'd try to overpower my wishes as much as they claim "the System" does.

      As a result, I'll be giving birth in a hospital (which I'm very comfortable with). While I want an OB I'm comfortable with for all of my visits, I'm choosing that person based on the hospitals where s/he delivers.

  4. Wonderful post. Though I plan to go to a hospital when I have a child (at least with the first) I very much want a natural, unmedicated childbirth and want to avoid an unneccessary c-section (I want my baby with me right after damn it, not at the nursery where they'll give the kid bottles against my wishes!) I was fully planning on asking my doctor what her normal c-section rate is, but never thought to ask how she felt about an unmedicated, unassisted birth.

    1 agrees
  5. This is a really great post! I'm so nervous but also excited to have a home birth and now I know some of the questions to ask when I see her for the first time.

  6. I am really lucky with the practice I'm at. They have a rotation of doctors, and I've loved every one of them! They make me think more about what I want, so that they have it written down clearly in my file. I was told by one doctor that my job is "to bring in any and every question you can think of."

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