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Finding the Right Prenatal Care


4. Who'll deliver my baby if you're away on vacation or delivering someone else's infant?

No one's available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In many group practices, you'll routinely get whichever doctor's on call when you go into labor. If that's the case, most practices arrange for you to meet with each physician at least once during your pregnancy (if not, ask if you can do so). Take advantage of that opportunity to discuss their delivery-room philosophy. If you dislike one of them, find out if you can request an alternate if she happens to be on call.


Other practitioners try to attend all deliveries unless they're out of town, so inquire about the doctor's contingency plan in the event she's on vacation when you're due. If she has a trip scheduled then, ask to meet her backup.


5. What's your stance on drugs during labor?

You can't know in advance how you're going to feel during childbirth, but you probably have some idea of whether you may want pain relief. "If you really prefer to stay away from medication, for instance, ask what the practitioner does to encourage drug-free labor," says Cynthia Cover, director of midwife services at the Cleveland Clinic. Look for someone who recommends techniques like massage or showers, or even less mainstream options, such as acupuncture.


If you're leaning toward  -- or are unsure about  -- drugs, ask an open-ended question: "What's your feeling about medication?" Someone who answers, "We'll figure that out closer to delivery," or "It's up to you," probably won't do much to help you decide. Another red flag: a judgmental comment like, "I don't know why anyone would want to feel labor pain if they don't have to," or "I gave birth twice without drugs, and it's the best way to go." Ideally, your provider will give you as much detail as possible  -- what types of relief are available, when each is administered, and the pros and cons  -- to help you make up your own mind.