I'd gone to the same gynecologist for years, so when I became pregnant with my first child, I stuck with him. I wished I had done some comparison shopping instead when I noticed that at every checkup he seemed annoyed by even simple questions. When I went into labor -- surprise -- he was on an unannounced vacation and my baby was delivered by the obstetrician on call at the hospital. There were no problems at all (my daughter is almost 3 and thriving), but the experience would have been a lot more positive if I'd had a doctor with whom I could communicate.
"Finding an obstetrician or midwife whom you trust and who shares your philosophy on pregnancy and childbirth makes a big difference in how smoothly everything goes," says Deanne Williams, executive director of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, in Washington, DC. If you're lucky, your current care provider will fit the bill. But if not, you'll want to choose another (and don't be afraid to change practices if you're not happy, even if you're midway through your pregnancy or have previously delivered with that practitioner). The tricky part is knowing what you really want.
Particularly if this is your first pregnancy, you may not be sure about what's most important to you until you start asking questions. To help you zero in on your priorities about pregnancy and labor (and see if your practitioner can accommodate them), we've outlined seven questions to ask your obstetrician or midwife during the first couple of checkups, or during an interview-only appointment if you're still in the planning stages.
1. Where do you deliver?
Ask for written information about the hospital or birthing center your doctor or midwife is affiliated with, and visit it now to determine if it has the features that are most important to you, says James Marquardt, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston. You may be looking for a facility that's close to your house or for one with an impressive neonatal intensive-care unit. Perhaps you're more concerned that it has doulas (labor coaches) on staff or allows you to keep your baby in your room after delivery. Mary Weatherhead, of Cleveland Heights, OH, was pleased that she had her baby at a hospital that was breastfeeding-friendly. "I knew that some of my friends hadn't gotten much support from the staff at the hospital where they'd delivered. The obstetrician I chose worked at a facility that had lactation consultants on staff," she says.