Choosing a caregiver for your prenatal care, labor, & delivery is an important decision - one that will undoubtedly shape your entire birth experience. It's certainly not a matter that should be taken lightly.
The first thing to remember is that Midwives, OBs, and Family Practitioners are people. That's not rocket science, right? But it's sometimes easy to forget.
What this implies is two things:
1. Every caregiver comes to the table with a unique personality, perspective, and worldview. Every caregiver has had different experiences and types of education. As such, it isn't fair to say that "all midwives do such-and-such..." or "all OBs respond in such-and-such a way." It's not quite as simple as that. Certainly, there are generalizations about each group (that are largely true...), but each individual person is still going to have their own philosophy of birth.
2. Medical caregivers are not superhuman. They do not know everything about everything. They sometimes unknowingly give bad advice. They sometimes make mistakes. As such, it is wise to think critically about any information that they dispense. It is also wise to treat them with grace and respect (and to expect the same thing in return).
Now that we have those two points out-in-the-clear, here is some basic information about choosing a caregiver for your pregnancy.
Some pregnancy books will advise that you interview the doctor detective-style and ask about induction rates, percentage of C-sections, etc. While it's certainly acceptable (and it can be helpful) to ask these kind of questions, I don't think they are the best way to decide which caregiver to choose. Besides, (a) many doctors won't willingly offer up those stats (I'm uncertain if that is because the information is unknown, inaccessible, or they just don't want to share...) and (b) stats alone can be falsely reassuring.
Here's what I advise that you do over the course of your first few appointments:
After all those observations have been made and the questions have been asked, take some time to reflect on how you FEEL about that particular caregiver and his/her office staff. Often, your "gut" is right. If you feel small, silly, dismissed, or rushed when you go to your prenatal appointments or if something just doesn't seem right, it is 100% okay to switch caregivers. Even if you're already halfway through your pregnancy...or more.
If you're newly pregnant and looking for a caregiver, I recommend that you ask other new mothers in your circle. Start by asking about their birth experience. Find someone who had a beautiful birth - someone whose birth story you admire - and then ask who was there when they had their baby. That's a good place to start.
Or you could always have an unassisted childbirth...
YOUR TURN: How did you decide on your caregiver?
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* Image of pregnant woman from Lee Hansen Graphics