Choosing a primary care provider might seem simple. You might be assigned one by the clinic you go to or you might select the first available midwife or OB in your area. Seems easy enough, right?
It can be, but if you knew that selecting the right care provider for your birth is one of the most important decisions in determining your overall satisfaction in your experience, would you take the time to ask the questions you needed to, in order find the best care provider to work with? I’m pretty sure you would. Though, you might be wondering where to start, what to look for or what to ask.
Below I’ve included a list of questions you can ask that will make it clear where possible candidates stand. Make sure to grab a notebook to jot down the questions and leave space for answers.
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In selecting a care provider you want to make sure that you’re listened to, respected and that your choices matter. Choosing someone who is understanding, but who can also explain their recommendations clearly and who’s practice matches up with your decisions for how you want to give birth, is going to make the process of narrowing down candidates easier.
Below are some helpful questions that you can ask:
- Would you be open to my input and choices regarding labour and birth? -This questions can help determine whether or not the potential care provider is respectful of your decisions and whether or not they will value your input.
- Will I be allowed to move around in labour? Do you use intermittent fetal monitoring? – Being able to move in labour can greatly help you cope and it can help to move things along.
- Will I be allowed to choose my position for birth or is there a standard position you require me to be in? The position for birth can greatly facilitate a smoother transition for you and your baby, squatting or positioning yourself on all fours can greatly help, if possible.
- What are the routine procedures I should expect to be faced with in labour and birth? – You will want to know about the routine procedures involved so you can make informed decisions. Asking about episiotomies, epidurals (and when they are administered), labour induction, artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), directed pushing, eating and drinking policies and other such information can help you make the choices you need and will help you discuss them and possible alternatives with your care provider.
- Would it be okay for me to bring a doula for support? – An informed and experienced doula can help you with comfort measures, coping techniques and emotional support. They can also help you with informed decision making. If the potential care provider does not allow or prefers you not to have doula support, you can ask them what their reasoning is.
- What is your C-section rate and how often do you perform them? – If you are not a candidate for a cesarean and do not require nor want one, it would be best to select a care provider who has a low cesarean rate.
- Do you or your staff limit the amount of time I can labor? If baby and I are doing fine is it possible for me to labor as long as we’re okay? When everything is fine and there are no risks to mother or baby, being pressured to birth during a certain time or to fit a specific schedule can be stressful. Knowing that your care provider or staff respect the laboring process and will not pressure you, will put your mind at ease.
- What is your induction rate? When and how often do you perform them? What are the main reasons you perform them? In certain cases, inductions might be necessary. However, unnecessary inductions can lead to a cascade of interventions and even unnecessary cesareans, so if you do not medically require one, selecting a care provider with a low rate of inductions can help.
- How frequently do you or your staff perform vaginal exams/cervical checks? Is it okay if I decline to have frequent exams? Vaginal exams are normally done to check dilation, effacement and fetal positioning, though they can be uncomfortable. Too many unnecessary vaginal exams during labor can make a woman feel discouraged or pressured if she is not dilating as much as she’d like to. Also weekly cervical checks are sometimes performed by some care providers at the end of pregnancy, however you can request they not be performed at that time if not medically necessary and ask for the reasoning behind doing them if your provider requires it.
- Who is on your team and who will be caring for me in case of your unavailability? Due to the unpredictability of birth and the timing of labor, you may not always end up with the care provider you’ve selected. However, you can request to interview the backup care providers as well and provide them with your birth plan/list of birth preferences. Make sure to give your care provider copies to pass onto them and have additional ones in your bag for the hospital or birth center.
- Will I be able to room-in with my baby and can a family member or support person stay with me? Being able to be near your baby will help with early bonding and breastfeeding. Having a supportive person to help you out during late night feedings when nurses or staff are seeing other patients can make sure you get the attention you need.
- Will there be a lactation consultant (IBCLC) on staff to address any breastfeeding questions or difficulties I might have? Do you have one at your clinic that can visit if one is not available? Consulting with an IBCLC or lactation consultant can help get breastfeeding off on the right foot and avoid any possible issues down the line. Requesting one to see you after giving birth can be very helpful in the early days. If one is not available, you have the option of hiring one. A couple of visits from a lactation counselor can greatly help.
Being able to ask specific questions to care providers you interview will give you a better understanding of their views and how you will be treated during the labour and birth process. While asking these questions won’t guarantee a specific outcome, it can help you express your own concerns so that you can make the best choices possible for your situation. Also, be sure to check out the post The 5 Essential Ingredients For A Satisfying Birth which can also be helpful.
What are some additional questions you think would be worth asking potential care providers?